Media’s Gosnell reputation isn’t going to fix itself

Days after my quest for answers about why the media downplayed abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s abortion trial went viral, we have seen approximately eleventy billion media analysis pieces about the coverage. Many folks have written mea culpas copping to pro-choice bias, ignorance, or other journalistic failures. Some folks have tried claiming that the coverage was really there, usually pointing to either 2011 or the day the trial began (a curious approach, given what we know about the time-space continuum). Others have said that since conservative outlets didn’t cover it (except, you know, they did), that excuses the lack of mainstream coverage. Some folks just reacted defensively, yelled at me and called me names. It really ran the gamut.

What we haven’t seen terribly much of, however, is good coverage of the trial, the abortion industry, regulation of said industry or the larger issues in play. The New York Times hasn’t run anything in days, after one particularly weak story that barely mentioned the trial.

Or take the Los Angeles Times. Let’s take a trip through its search engine. When birth control activist Sandra Fluke was called a bad name, did it think that a story worth covering? Yes, big time:

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What about that Komen/Planned Parenthood dust-up? The East Coast media flipped out about the decision by a private breast cancer foundation to stop funding the country’s biggest abortion provider. Did the Los Angeles Times? Yep:

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What about that Missouri Representative, Todd Akin, who said something very stupid about rape? Uh, yeah:

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So before we look at how the trial of Kermit Gosnell has been covered by the paper, let’s look at how the paper has covered another distant case, one that hasn’t even gone to trial yet. The case dealing with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Oh boy:

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Which brings us to the Times‘ coverage of Kermit Gosnell.

Since we’re in the final weeks of the prosecution’s case, should we expect to see 300 items about it? 400? How about:

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And both “stories” are from the last couple of days and aren’t even news items about the trial. They’re both opinion pieces about what the absence of coverage says about the media. One is Jonah Goldberg’s column and the other is an in-house editorial headlined: “Dr. Kermit Gosnell abortion case: Why no national media spotlight?”

If the not-even-yet-occurring trial in the death of Trayvon Martin — something that took place across the continent, mind you — is good for 281 hits, the Los Angeles Times has some ‘splainin’ to do. Or major catch-up.

Moving past Gosnell serves no one. It should be covered first and foremost because it’s important news, at least as important as these other stories. But it also needs to be covered thoroughly and prominently if the media hope to restore a positive reputation and rebuilt trust with readers and viewers. The media’s reputation isn’t going to fix itself.

OK, I wanted to write that all as a preliminary for looking at some of the more worthwhile media analysis pieces out there, but this is getting too long. We’ll begin to take those up in the next post.

Photo of journalist getting to work fixing industry problems via Shutterstock.

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  • John Pack Lambert

    The Goldberg column was good and asked the needed questions. Still it is not on the ground reporting. If the LA Times wants to be considered a worth-while paper it needs to cover the trial itself. It also needs to tell its readers that people were fired and policies were changed in Pennsylvania. This [http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/a-look-at-the-case-of-kermit-gosnell-the-philadelphia-abortion-doctor-accused-of-8-murders/2013/04/17/4861c072-a7d3-11e2-9e1c-bb0fb0c2edd9_story.html] article in the Washington Post does some of that, but it is also from the Associated Press.

    • John Pack Lambert

      It is probably most telling that the Washington Post is running what should have been the starting article at the start of this major prosecution a month into the trial. The lack of actual coverage of the actual trial is still a glaring deficiency.

  • Richard Mounts

    Mollie,

    I thought I read in a comment to one of your postings on this topic (good grief–doesn’t that make it sound like a story about how to make a light quick supper now that Spring is here?!) that CBS and MSNBC’s Morning Joe both had reports about the trial. Is that wrong?

    I’ve been hammering my local ABC outlet but nothing yet. My local newspapaer, Akron Beacon Journal, has only run a few blogs on their web outlet, according to the search function. No news in print or web, though. I’ve even suggested mentioning main story to get to what facilities are like in our city, county, region. Crickets.

  • http://authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

    Something I’ve noticed about political liberals, including the media. When they get caught up in a mess, they ride it out, and their stamina is awesome, and it usually works. With absolutely no fallout over Fast and Furious or Benghazi for instance, the tactic usually works. Clinton actually came out even stronger after Monica Lewinski than before, even though his dalliance was tantamount to a major national security breach. Anthony Weiner is an exception (he played it stupidly, too, plus he was dogged by Breitbart). But look at how some obscure person came out claiming Herman Cain made dirty comments, and it derailed him altogether. Not to mention the unfortunate remarks made by the others in your post.

    It seems to me that the media are waiting this one out, the case will be over soon enough, some conservative will call a liberal a bad name in surreptitiously acquired audio, and they will have their field day, and everyone (except some of us) will forget who Gosnell was. Then the verdict will come out and get published sandwiched somewhere among the classified ads.

    They’re riding it out, counting on what Marx called “philistine sentimentalism” of the masses waiting to be spoon fed what is and is not newsworthy.

  • potobac

    The sad thing about this column is that what the MSM is doing will work, and nothing will change.

  • An Aaron, not the Aaron

    Mollie,

    I think your comparisons of the Gosnell coverage to that of Fluke, Komen, Akin and Martin are spot on, but I’m wondering why you haven’t mentioned the wall-to-wall coverage of the Jody Arias trial. Crazy woman killing her boyfriend just screams “local story” to me with utterly no chance of national implications. Yet we can’t seem to get away from it. Have you asked anyone in the media “why Arias and not Gosnell?” If not, I was wondering why not?

  • John M.

    You know what might help my trust? Someone resigning. Or getting fired. Preferably an Editor-in-Chief, and I don’t say that lightly. Has that happened yet? Anywhere? Shoot, at least with Abu Ghraib the military disciplined a bunch of Privates so they could pretend they were taking it seriously. These people truly are shameless.

    So then I pull up CNN.com on my iPhone this morning, and the Entertainment section leads with “McCartney joins against gun violence [sic--actually he's just for gun control]“, and the entire Politics section is: “Senate trumps public opinion in gun control vote”, “Obama on gun law setback: ‘A pretty shameful day for Washington’”, and “Giffords: ‘Shame on them’”.

    I can see all of these at one time on my tiny iPhone screen. It’s like I don’t even exist at all to these people. I’m ready to boycott the MSM and go read the Drudge report for a year or something. I’m absolutely fit to be tied.

    -John

    • John Pack Lambert

      Well, Governor Corbett did fire people in the Pennsylvania Departments of State and Health for their failures. So people have lost their jobs as a result of the Gosnell fiasco. Since it has been reported in the media, if not outside of the editorial pages in some top-ranked publications like the LA Times, it is hard to call it a total blackout. Still this should be making the hourly news on CBS and it isn’t, so we need to keep putting on the pressure.

    • northcoast

      Add the one-star in charge of the prison to the list of career terminations over Abu Ghraib.

  • John Pack Lambert

    I came across this particularly offensive summary of the case at US News and World Report [http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/susan-milligan/2013/04/18/kermit-gosnell-trial-doesnt-merit-obsessive-national-coverage]

    The claim that the case is a “local murder” is just sickening. Gosnell is charged with 7 counts of first degree murder, plus one third-degree murder. The case lead to governor Corbett firing 6 officials outright, and stadting procedures against 8 others, although since complains from 1996 to 2002 were involved in what was deliberately ignored, many of the most egregious people who perpetuated a culture of ignoring complaints had retired before the grand jury report came out in 2011.

    The Grand Jury report suggests that there were actually hundreds of murders done by Gosnell. This should be national news. The claim that it should not be is sickiening. The claim that this shows what happens when abortion is illegal is false. Abortion was legal in Pennsylvania. Governor Ridge just wanted to make it cheaper for abortionists, so he stopped the inspection. Ridge’s actions directly encoraged people like Gosnell to figure out ways to make millions through sub-standard care.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    I was going to send this fact about the L.A. Times in today and compare it to a story they’re running about a trial starting for a woman who is accused of lacing her husband’s food with ground-up sleeping pills, cutting off his penis and then putting it in the garbage disposal, but then I saw that it is a local story, so they can’t be accused of bias that way.

    But An Aaron’s question is very good — why Jodi Arias? It is clearly a local story, just like Casey Anthony, Trayvon Martin, etc., yet the MSM are all over it. Well, the LA Times, not so much, though Jodi’s getting slightly better coverage than Gosnell:
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  • John M.

    Didn’t she just get a “letter of reprimand” in her file over it? I’m sure she lost a lot of sleep over that while Lynndie England was in the big house.

    -John

  • John Pack Lambert

    My local paper, the “Macomb Daily” in Detroit’s northeast suburbs, finally ran an article on this trial, using the occasion of the prosecution resting. It does mention the main charges of the women dieing and the seven counts of first degree murder, although I don’t think they explain that. They describe the last witness as a “whistle blower”. They do not descibe the sub-standard conditions, mention the lack of inspections for 17 years, or in any way hint that the case came about because of an FBI drug bust. They make it sound like this witness was so distubed by the killing she reported them to the authorities and that is what lead to the charges which is not at all what happened. The basic facts are not really being properly reported.


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