One week later, and the networks have long forgotten about their scant coverage of the March for Life – after all, they have a whole year before they have to ignore it again. The pro-life movement, however, has forgotten neither the March nor the unserious and insulting way the broadcast networks reported on it – or didn’t.
As CMI reported last week, ABC and NBC gave just 46 seconds of air time to the many thousands who braved freezing temperatures to join the 2014 March for Life in Washington, D.C. CBS didn’t even mention it. By contrast, the networks couldn’t get enough of the debut of Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s newest panda cub, cooing about panda “magic.” The animal received six times more coverage than the March. Pro-life leaders noticed. It was, in the words of International Communion of Evangelical Churches’ Bishop Harry Jackson, “media malpractice.” Continued after the video.
According to Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, the media coverage of the March for Life was significantly better than in previous years,” but that’s an abysmally low bar. March for Life President Jeanne Monahan called the panda report “evidence that we still have a long way to go.” Live Action President Lila Rose noted the irony. “The pro-abortion mainstream media, looking for a ‘human interest’ story, breathlessly focuses its cameras on a panda,” she said, “while ignoring hundreds of thousands of actual humans marching for millions more precious humans in the womb.” She added, “What’s more humanly interesting than what is happening to our littlest and weakest humans?”
Reflecting on her experience with the March, Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, asked, “In what alternative liberal universe is this not news?”
But the March for Life “never receives the amount of media attention it deserves,” according to Mallory Quigley, communications director of the Susan B. Anthony List. “The media’s overall ignorance to our pro-life presence” is by now a “clichéd joke.” And it is almost sadly comic. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote, “Most networks have had a lot of practice perfecting their greatest magic trick: making hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers disappear!”
“When my grandmother didn't like what she heard, she would pretend she didn't hear it,” said Anglicans for Life President and Silent No More Awareness Campaign Co-Founder Georgette Forney. “The media seems to mimic grandma!”
But the panda comparison is telling. The Radiance Foundation Co-Founder Ryan Bomberger said the “vacuous mainstream media values animals over human beings.” Priests for Life National Director Father Frank Pavone observed that, unlike abortion, “It is easy to cover pandas; there is no personal challenge for us.” And no challenge for a fundamentally unserious news media. “The emphasis on Bao Bao the panda,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, “shows that we are interested in the entertainment value of our news more than we are in the depth or veracity of our news coverage.”
“For those looking to trace the media's loss of trust and legitimacy in the eyes of most Americans,” 60 Plus Association Chairman Jim Martin said, “they need look no further than the historic blackout of pro-life viewpoints in their publications and broadcasts.”
Other reactions from around the pro-life and conservative world were similar. Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance called the discrepancy in coverage “outrageous,” while American Values President Gary L. Bauer said, “the pro-abortion bias of Big Media” as “breathtaking.” ConservatvieHQ.com Chairman Richard Viguerie said it was “morally abhorrent and indefensible” to favor “a story about pandas being ‘magic’ instead of mourning and remembering the deaths of 55 million defenseless newborns.”
Some in the media have started to acknowledge the bias. Pro-Life blogger Jill Stanek cited The New York Times public editor who recently recognized the paper’s lack of March coverage. Stanek detailed, “As she [the editor] noted, there were several ‘fresh angles,’ including the large turnout of participants despite a snowstorm and frigid weather, the unmistakable youth majority, and the RNC chairman's participation for likely the first time ever. The ancillary pro-life meetings, rallies and even a 5K that now surround the March would also be something for an interested news organization to pursue.”
To Stanek, being ignored by the media “is a badge of honor. Were our numbers small, or were the March to dwindle away, MSM would notice.”
Stanek wasn’t alone in her optimism. Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation announced, “The media can ignore the large crowds at the annual March for Life, but it can’t silence the truth proclaimed by hundreds of thousands of marchers: Every human being – from the moment of conception – is a person with inherent value who possesses the basic right to life.”
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said that the pro-life movement is succeeding, despite the neglect of the networks and other media. “The hearts of Americans are turning toward women and the lives they carry, with a growing belief that all life is valuable,” she said. “And this is taking place even as networks and news leaders ignore what is happening right in front of them, year after year, as thousands come to Washington, D.C. to make their voices heard.”
— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.