Water-sipping and pro-life activism. A tale of media coverage.

Last month, we covered the perennial problem of why the March for Life gets the coverage it does (or doesn’t get the coverage it doesn’t get). And various journalists responded that, well, the March for Life isn’t big news, particularly after 40 years, and that the crowds aren’t that big of a deal when compared to a weekend of sporting events. One comment, for instance:

If pretty much the same people do the same thing year after year after year, is it news? Or to what extent is it news? Or what is the news in the event? Particularly if there’s a challenge in linking the event to anything that happened other than the event? These are all journalism questions to be applied to the annual marches by people opposed to abortion rights.

Yep. Big crowd. But fewer people than attended the college football bowl games. Even if you buy the crowd estimates offered by the organizers — and such are almost always hugely puffed for any large event if there’s not been actual data collected — it wasn’t even rounding error in a nation of more than 300 million. What has happened in the US because of these annual marches? What’s different this year compared with last year because of last year’s big march? Unless there are good answers to these questions — and good answers there may well be — it’s not big news.

Two days ago, the President of the United States gave his State of the Union Address (annual event, the words of the address are eerily similar year after year) and a couple of Republicans responded (also an annual event, etc., etc.). One of them drank some water during his speech. I didn’t watch, but apparently it was the most amazingly newsworthy drink of water to have ever happened in the history of the world.

Literally (and I don’t mean that in the Joe Biden sense of the word):

Rubio water-swig replay tally: MSNBC 155, CNN 34, Fox News 12 [VIDEO]

Ahem.

Over at the New York Times (the outlet that was co-opted in its March for Life coverage by the nuns-on-the-bus/bishops-are-evil-except-when-they-agree-on-our-political-causes PR outfit), you can read articles headlined “Rubio’s Thirst Trumps His Message” and “After Sip of Water, Rubio Returns to Conservative Message” and you can watch video of … the drinking of water (titled, I kid you not, “Rubio Drinks His Water”). There are also the expected columns and op-eds on the matter.

Now, as one person on Twitter wrote:

in their defense, people march every year, and no public speaker has ever taken a drink of water before.

This is true. Marchers march every year and no public speaker has ever needed water before. So I guess we’ll excuse the disparity this time.

But you can see why maybe some pro-lifers are just a tad skeptical of media explanations of why they cover some things the way they do.

If you follow pro-life media networks, the number of salacious stories they have — that have resulted in notably low-key national coverage — this week include the continuing saga of a mother who died after her late-term abortion at LeRoy Carhart’s abortion clinic in Maryland and a teenager obtaining a restraining order against her parents because, she says, they’re trying to force her to abort her child. Maybe no one involved in these stories had a sip of water. But they still might be newsworthy.

Someone I follow on Twitter wrote today — about a different matter:

RT @justkarl: The MSM increasingly spends its time attacking conservatives and conservative media for raising topics they want to avoid.

At the same time, a Washington Post religion reporter tweeted out a link to an opinion column on the matter:

Abortion opponents’ publicity of a post-abortion death. Honor or cruel exploitation?

I think we know what the answer is supposed to be. See, the problem is the pro-lifers should quietly downplay or ignore the woman’s post-abortion death. Like the (pro-choice-sympathizing) media did! That’s how you honor someone who lost her life after a procedure performed by a modern day hero.

There are four pieces on the matter in the Post. The first two are news items, quite anodyne and brief (one is three paragraphs long) headlined “Maryland officials probe possible abortion link in woman’s death,” and “Md. police, medical examiner investigating death linked to abortion clinic.” The latter is the Associated Press story, running six sentences long.

But the last two items in the Post are the opinion column attacking, yawn, pro-lifers anti-abortionists and the follow-up news story. For the follow-up news story, did the Post dig into this particular case? Did they look into late-term abortions and their risks? Did they investigate other botched abortions by the abortion doctor? Did they talk about fetal development and what that means for a baby who dies in a late-term abortion? Well, here’s the headline:

Antiabortion activists blame Germantown clinic for woman’s death

Less time focusing on or attacking conservatives for raising topics they want to avoid and more time just reporting the news, please. Heck, I’d rather have reportage that at least tried to defend the late-term abortion rather than this odd focus on the people breaking all the news in this story.

And as I’m about to post this, another tweet from the Post to its 1.4 million followers about the most important aspect of this story (at least to those in the media who support abortion on demand through all 9 months of pregnancy):

She lost her life and then she lost her privacy. How did #abortion protesters get her name?

Fascinating. Kind of sounds like it’s coming out of the abortion rights playbook rather than an impartial journalism, but fascinating none-the-less.

  • http://youngevangelicalandcatholic.blogspot.com Brantly

    To me, the fact the March for Life happens every year is news right there. It’s amazing, absolutely unprecedented, that the March for Life has been going on for 40 years straight. And the people coming now aren’t just the same people who came from the beginning obviously! Especially this year, with the passing of Nellie Gray, there was a huge angle, that this thing started 40 years is still going on, is bigger and better than ever, is the biggest march in DC every year, and has successfully transferred leadership to the next generation – and is not going away any time soon but only growing. I guarantee that if this was for a liberal issue, the march every year would be a national holiday (And, by God’s grace, if abortion is eventually made illegal as it should, Jan 22nd might someday be transformed into a national holiday for life).

  • Bob Smietana

    The State of the Union is a national event that appeals to a wide range of people. Add that Rubio was caught on video in an awkward moment and it become an internet and news sensation. It’s a like the Super Bowl meets News of the Weird – perfect for our 24-7 media. web driven, social media world.

    • mollie

      A national event that appeals to a wide range of people. But somehow it’s one deserving of wall-to-wall water-sipping coverage. Unlike like another national event that appeals to a wide range of people.

    • Chris Bolinger

      Apples and oranges, Bob. How many people take days off work or school and travel hundreds or thousands of miles at their own expense to be in D.C. for the SOTU? Have we seen these pilgrimages to D.C. for the SOTU every year for the past 40 years?

      If there were an event that drew hundreds of thousands of leftists to D.C. every year for the past 40 years, then I can say with a fair deal of confidence that the so-called mainstream media would find some fresh angles to justify major coverage. Every year. Without fail. And we wouldn’t get eight pix out of 10 showing a handful of conservative protesters at the event. Not even one out of 10.

      The Rubio replay is designed to obscure the message. Period.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Leroy Carhart, not George Carhart.

    • mollie

      Thank you! I fixed. Not quite sure where that came from in my head.

  • Julia

    What’s awkward about a speaker taking a drink of water?

  • Julia

    What’s awkward about a speaker taking a drink of water?
    This is an attempt to trash him like they did Sarah Palin’s looks and manner of speaking.

  • Tim H

    If a public speaker drinking water is so unprecedented, then why are so many podiums, lecterns, daises, and pulpits stocked with bottles and pitchers of water?

  • Martha

    I saw the to-do over the politician taking a drink of water and was amazed. Seriously, it is news in America that public speakers sometimes get dry mouths or throats and need a drink? I don’t know what would happen if, like British Chancellors of the Exchequer, they had a tipple during the big, important, televised speech presenting the annual national budget!

    “Can the Chancellor drink alcohol during the Budget speech?
    Yes. Previous Chancellors have chosen whisky (Kenneth Clarke), gin and tonic (Geoffrey Howe), brandy and water (Benjamin Disraeli), sherry and beaten egg (Gladstone) and spritzer (Nigel Lawson). Gordon Brown chose to drink mineral water. Alistair Darling and George Osborne also drank water.”

    Or did Senator Rubio somehow drink the water in a pointed, marked, sarcastic or even insulting manner? As you point out, mollie, I can’t get over the disparity between the journalist who came on here to explain that hundreds of thousands of people marching every year in the capital city of the United States of America, in the 40th anniversary year of the judicial decision, with crowds that are not just made up of elderly grannies clutching their rosary beads but even have atheist and gay participants is not worth the newsprint it would take up, but we see that “Man takes drink of water in public” is a national scandal?

  • sari

    To me this is the flip side of the woman overseas whose death was attributed initially to not having an abortion. Lots of blog activity and very little in the way of facts for the media to report. Do the data support the conclusions being drawn?

    I found the WaPo tweet relevant and worthy of investigation. HIPPA requirements mandate privacy from all but those designated by the patient. Someone talked: clinic staff, protesters, family, friend, advocates (on either side of the fence)? It would be interesting to know who and why.

    • mollie

      Ooh, it is like this. Except that the media reported that story wall to wall all over the world. Very good comparison.

    • Mark Baddeley

      I agree, first comparison I thought of when I saw the tweet about how did abortionists get the name and how the lady lost first her life and then her privacy.

      Surely the two incidents are reasonably comparable, and if one possible relationship of abortion to a death is news (death might have been caused by lack of abortion) the other is also news (death might have been caused by an abortion).

      And yet the two stories are handled very differently.

  • Will

    Perhaps he “aggressively” drank water, like that “aggressive eye-rolling”?

    What is clear is that the punditocracy is afraid of Rubio and desperate for something to hang on him.

  • Julia

    He needs to be destroyed like Cain, Palin and Thomas withmockery, inuendo, sarcasm, etc. instead of dealing with substance.

  • Martha

    Well, at least next year’s March For Life now knows what to do to attract media attention and create a newsworthy story: have all the marchers pause to take a drink of water!

    I’m laughing to keep from crying ;-)

    • Greg

      “Well, at least next year’s March For Life now knows what to do to attract media attention and create a newsworthy story: have all the marchers pause to take a drink of water!”

      OK; that would be fabulous! :)

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com Mattk

    It is difficult for me to think of journalists who conspire to protect the murderers of children as anything other than enemies of humanity, akin to the Nazi and Vichy proagandizers. They deserve the same end, for they do not merely stand on the sidelines and report. They are part of the disease.

  • Pingback: If I Ever Kill a Woman, I Hope the Washington Post Gets My Back | Foundation Life

  • Sampson Greenovich

    It is sick that people in this wonderful country are paranoid enough about overpopulation that they are willing to kill their children to prevent it, it is sick that they are so callous, I can understand if the rest of the world is doing it, but aren’t we supposed to be better? This is not China, we don’t flush our citizens down the toilet or kill them in the womb. If we claim inalienable human rights, then we need to apply them to the children of our people.


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