Kermit Gosnell is the abortion provider now on trial for the murder of seven infants and one adult woman. There are claims he killed many more babies, but he’s being prosecuted for a limited number. The case involves grisly details about babies’ spines being snipped, about a baby squealing before the final blow fell, about unclean conditions and the practice of treating well-off white patients better than minorities without means.
But readers/listeners/viewers who rely on the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, television broadcast programs or daily newspapers for news probably haven’t heard of this horrific serial killer’s day in court.
Why not? Opinions vary, but count me among those who think the trial raises too many uncomfortable questions for the pro-choice absolutists who populate many newsrooms. They turn away, justifying their choice with laughable arguments easily knocked down. (I won’t list them here; they’re easy enough to find.)
So, the trial is covered elsewhere, most notably online, as columns and articles are passed around on social media, as blogs take up where traditional media left a vacuum. The mainstream media might turn away at the massacre of innocents, but the nontraditional news outlets won’t.
Try getting those customers back, news editors. It’s a steep hill. Everyone in business knows the first rule of recruitment of new customers is retention of old ones. You’ve been losing news junkies for a decade or more now. The Gosnell case cries out for a J school dissertation on the failure of 21st century media to retain its core audiences by refusing to cover, or covering poorly, stories readers and viewers might actually be interested in.
To give you some perspective, let me paint this scenario: Imagine if newsrooms were dominated by Second Amendment purists. A massacre of innocent children by a mad shooter occurs in a school. Let’s say it happens in a small town in…Connecticut. But you refuse to cover it because it’s just a local crime story that doesn’t relate to national policy.
Would you be surprised to discover your readers and viewers going elsewhere for news?
Because readers will wonder as they make their way through this commentary, let me get this out of the way: I’m a middle-of-the-roader on abortion policy. I support regulations such as parental consent for minors seeking abortions and restrictions on late-term abortions. But if I were asked to outlaw abortion altogether, I’d probably vote no. So I’m not completely in the pro-life camp, but neither would I find many welcoming arms in the absolutist pro-choice camp. I am pretty much where most Americans are on this issue, though, according to polls.
I am appalled, therefore, on two levels by the Gosnell case. First, how can one not be moved by the slaughter of innocents? It is horror of Biblical proportions. But second, I am shocked by the turned faces, the blind eyes, the complete ignoring of suffering and massacre that cries out for the powerful to decry its evil by unveiling it to the world. Where are you, oh great arbiters of what should afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted? Don’t you understand—the “powerful” in this case is the abortion lobby. The afflicted are those poor babes who cried out before being surgically beheaded.
The abortion lobby is so powerful that they could extort a breast cancer organization into financially supporting them. Women dying of breast cancer? Phht. Who cares about them when there are choices to be protected, babies to be aborted? Oh, scratch that. Fetuses. That sterile language is what’s preferred by the pro-choice crowd, and it’s one of the reasons the Gosnell trial is likely to discomfit them. Gosnell is on trial for murdering babies delivered alive. But that doesn’t hide the fact that these…fetuses…were fully formed. Real. Human. People.
Broad moral questions aside, however, the pro-choice crowd is ill-served by the silence of the traditional news outlets . Feminists want clean and safe facilities where women of all races and classes are treated equitably, right? Yet, reports indicate Gosnell’s abattoir went unnoticed and unregulated because of a political fear—if you cross the abortion lobby, even to point out an abortion clinic’s failings, you end up smeared with the scarlet W—war on women warrior.
Here’s the real war on women, news gents: ignoring the cries of infant girls sent to trash bins, ignoring the death of an immigrant woman treated poorly because of her class and race, ignoring the horror of Kermit Gosnell’s practice.
No wonder your industry is headed for the trash heap, too.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.