A tale of two trials: Elite media devoted 5 stories to Gosnell, 203 to Zimmerman

A tale of two trials: Elite media devoted 5 stories to Gosnell, 203 to Zimmerman

Zimmmerman GosnellIt was only a matter of time before someone ran a LexisNexis search to confirm or refute claims of a double media standard in treating two recent murder trials. In this corner is neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, on trial for the murder of a Florida teen whom he allegedly stalked.

And in this corner is Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell, on trial for the murder of five babies whom he killed after they survived failed abortion attempts. Oh, I nearly neglected to mention that the “victim” in the first case and defendant in the second are black.

So which story received more coverage from “the most elite and influential news outlets in the United States”? Michael W. Chapman and Curtis Houck of CNSNews have the envelope. The winner hands-down is the Zimmerman trial, which was accorded 3,960% more coverage than the Gosnell trial. That’s a disparity of 40.6 to 1.

The news gathering organizations Chapman and Houcks selected for their Nexis news search were ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the New York Times, and Washington Post. The range for each was the first seven days of the trial, including the day before a trial started. What they found was a total of 5 stories on the Gosnell case and 203 on the Zimmerman case.

It is worth recalling what the various major new outlets had to say about their reticence during the Gosnell trial. Here is a brief summary of excuses, none of them quite as forthright as “my dog ate my homework.”

WaPo’s managing editor Martin Baron, went on record saying he wasn’t aware of the story initially, adding, “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere, but I can’t be. Nor can any of us.”

A spokesman for NBC said, “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 admitted having “aired only 76 words on the trial” called its coverage “thorough and appropriate,” while MSNBC maintained, “We don’t cover criminal trials to the extent of others in cable news.”

ABC declined to comment when queried about its lack of coverage. But according to the CNS News survey, they’ve had 12 stories on the Zimmerman trial. NBC has had the same number, while CBS featured 11 stories.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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