Monday’s Style section of the Washington Post was topped by a surprising story: “An abortion provider is on trial: Where’s the media coverage?” Sadly, what followed was a denial that there's any evidence of liberal bias, and a parade of utterly unconvincing evasions, excuses, and accusations against conservative media.
Post reporter Paul Farhi credited the “conservative Media Research Center” with asking if the blackout of the Kermit Gosnell trial could be caused by the “mainstream media’s supposed support for abortion rights.” This story utterly erodes the word “mainstream” for them. Start with the maddening list of official media responses to where they’ve been on Gosnell:
“The story is on our radar,” said Liz Fischer, a spokeswoman for NBC News. “We understand the importance of the issue and we’ll continue to cover the broader questions as news warrants.” She declined to comment further. [“On our radar” is a publicist’s way of saying “on our cutting-room floor.”]
“CBS has been working the story,” said a spokeswoman, Sonya McNair. She declined to explain why CBS hadn’t reported on it until Sunday’s “CBS Evening News.” [MRC’s Brent Baker reports that most of America didn’t see Sunday’s newscast due to the Masters golf tournament going to a playoff.]
“We feel our coverage, both online and on television, has been thorough and appropriate,” said Allison Gollust, a CNN spokeswoman. [“Thorough”? Did she seriously say that?]
An ABC News representative, Julie Townsend, declined comment.
Lauren Skowronski, an MSNBC spokeswoman, said her network was paying attention to the story, but added, “We don’t cover criminal trials to the extent of others in cable news.” [Hilarious, because no cable network has pushed the “War on Women” theme harder.]
Indeed, the big trial for cable news last week wasn’t Gosnell’s but that of Jodi Arias, the young Arizona woman accused of killing her boyfriend. The Arias story has been a tabloid favorite, with numerous sexual and romantic angles.
A spokeswoman for HLN, the cable network that has covered Arias extensively, said it had no current plans to cover Gosnell. “We’ve been carrying the Arias trial live and wall-to-wall since the trial started shortly after the new year, and will continue to do so until it concludes,” said the spokeswoman, Alison Rudnick.” And, as you know, viewers have been gripped, and we want to continue to respond [and] deliver to viewer interest.”
One key difference between the Arias and Gosnell trials is that cameras are permitted in the former but not in the latter. That makes it “a lot easier [for TV] to cover [Arias] extensively,” said CNN’s Gollust.
Then there's the new Washington Post editor, Martin Baron, who boldly proclaimed that the cluelessness defense:
Martin Baron, The Post’s editor, offers a more mundane rationale for the newspaper’s lack of coverage: He wasn’t aware of the story until last Thursday night, when readers began e-mailing him about it. “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere, but I can’t be,” he said. “Nor can any of us.”
...The Post ran a full AP report on it in Saturday’s editions; the paper has also assigned its own reporter to cover the trial in Philadelphia this week.
“We talked about the story during the day on Friday and decided that, in fact, the story warranted our staff attention because of the seriousness and scope of the alleged crimes and because this was a case that resonated in policy arguments and national politics,” said Baron. “In retrospect, we regret not having staffed the trial sooner. But, as you know, we don’t have unlimited resources, and . . . there is a lot of competition for our staff’s attention.”
Added Baron, “We never decide what to cover for ideological reasons, no matter what critics might claim. Accusations of ideological motives are easy to make, even if they’re not supported by the facts.”
Here's how the MRC argument was presented:
Could it be, as conservative bloggers have charged since shortly after the trial began March 18, that the media had taken a pass because Gosnell — who stands accused of killing seven newborn infants and one mother — is an abortion doctor whose alleged crimes run counter to the mainstream media’s supposed support for abortion rights?
That’s the way the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group based in Alexandria, has framed it. In multiple commentaries published since last month, the group has hammered the lack of coverage, citing it as evidence of liberal media bias. “The media elite are passionate about abortion and passionate about defending it,” says Tim Graham, the MRC’s director of media analysis, in an interview. “This is a story that threatens the abortion rights agenda. . . . It’s bias by omission.” Neither Graham nor any of the other critics have offered evidence for their suspicions.
Speaking of suspicions, I suspect someone at the Post is ignoring what I clearly said to Farhi as we talked about the Why of the Gosnell blackout. The evidence of the liberal bias is as plain as day in the blackout. The "why" is somewhat irrelevant. We believe the media want to prevent public-relations damage to the abortion industry, in the same way we believe the media want to inflict public-relations damage on other institutions -- say, the Catholic Church, as I said to Farhi.
I told Farhi is what this blackout proves is that the abortion industry and their media enablers have demonstrated they don't believe in the "safe" part of keeping abortion "safe, legal, and rare."
Oh, and memo to Marty Baron and the Post: I'm with Jim Geraghty on your peculiar Obamabot sense of news judgment about what local news is somehow national: "This is the same Washington Post Style section that had a front-page-of-the-section story about an Alabama high school football coach mocking Michelle Obama’s butt."