“Is media bias to blame for lack of Gosnell coverage? Or something far more banal?” Those questions form the title of a piece in Sunday’s Washington Post that notes that despite the trial’s having all the ingredients of a must-report news event (“shocking allegations, horrifying visuals, sympathetic victims”), the media have been MIA.
These details prompt the article’s author, Paul Fahri, to ask again:
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?
Fahri’s answer, unsurprisingly, is no. But his arguments in support of that claim are not just surprising — they are shocking in their naiveté. Among the rationales he ascribes to unnamed “media representatives” are that “other stories were commanding” news organizations’ “attention and resources” and that “the lack of cameras in the courtroom diminished TV interest in the story.”
Then he offers this gem: “The Gosnell trial was simply overlooked.” Later in the article Fahri quotes The Post’s own executive editor Martin Baron, who admits “he wasn’t aware of the story until Thursday night, when readers began e-mailing him about it,” adding, “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere, but I can’t be. Nor can any of us.”
Not since “My dog ate my homework” was first hazarded as an excuse has there been a less serious explanation for an omission — and this from a newspaper with a circulation of half a million.
But there’s more. Fahri goes on to catalog the responses of spokespeople for two of the major broadcast television networks (ABC declined comment), as well as CNN, MSNBC. Here’s NBC’s response in its entirety, “The story is on our radar. We understand the importance of the issue and we’ll continue to cover the broader questions as news warrants.”
A representative for CBS said that the network “has been working the story” but refused to explain why CBS hadn’t reported on it until Sunday’s “CBS Evening News.”
CNN, which Fahri reports “had aired only 76 words on the trial when host Jake Tapper mentioned it March 28,” called their coverage “thorough and appropriate,” and MSNBC said, “We don’t cover criminal trials to the extent of others in cable news.”
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