Readers noticed the lack of coverage and alerted the Public Editor—what we used to call an ombudsman—Margaret Sullivan:
[One] reader made the point that The Times’s political agenda was on display, not only in the lack of coverage of the event but also in what it did choose to give a major amount of space to in the same day’s paper: a front-page article about a Catholic school in suburban Seattle where students are protesting the firing of a school official who was let go after he married his male partner.
Francis H. Hoffman wrote: “A handful of young people from Seattle who support their fired vice principal merits big coverage, but a massive pro-life march in a winter storm is all but ignored. And the motto of the New York Times is, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” I guess pro-life news is not fit to print.”
I asked the Washington bureau chief, Carolyn Ryan, why no staff reporter was assigned to the event. She replied:
We have given extensive coverage to opponents of abortion.
The March for Life was a main element in our front-page story Tuesday about newly energized Republicans efforts, through ballot initiatives and legislation in Congress, to curtail abortion. We ran a three-column, live staff photograph of the event at the top of a national-section page, and an online Reuters story on nytimes.com about the march, highlighting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s appearance and his projections for legislation in the House. As you know, we do not cover every protest, and tend to focus on the substance of the issue. This particular march, in part because of the weather, was smaller than in years past. Last year, which was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we did produce a lengthier staff story on the march.
My take: The Times should have covered this gathering with a staff reporter in Washington. The march may happen every year, and this one may have been smaller than usual, but it still is a major event, and there were fresh angles available, including the more inclusive approach, the large number of young people involved and the difficulties of participating in the storm. The lack of staff coverage unfortunately gives fuel to those who accuse The Times of being anti-Catholic, and to those who charge that the paper’s news coverage continually reflects a liberal bias. But more important, the event had significant news value. In Thursday’s paper, it deserved more than a photograph.