We need answers on Gosnell coverage

We’ve had a couple posts on the curious downplaying by the national media of the abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s mass murder trial going on right now in Philadelphia. We’ve noted, among other things, that USA Today is one of the few outlets to have mentioned the story more than once.

Well, today that national newspaper also published an absolutely devastating column — repeat, “column” — by Kirsten Powers. You should read “We’ve forgotten what belongs on Page One” — unless you are trying to remain in your bubble of epistemic closure at all costs:

Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations?

It’s not your fault.

Powers lays out some of the details of the case and why they matter for a free society. She ends:

The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.

Now, Powers is just one of the latest critics to ask what in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on with this insane lack of national media attention on this trial.

I think many of us are going to continue asking. Just by way of example, I noticed that the Associated Press’ national social issues reporter David Crary hasn’t mentioned the Gosnell trial. Or, at least, I could find no mention of it going back a month or so on his Twitter feed (I recognize the technology here is imperfect so perhaps I missed his stories or his publicizing of colleagues’ stories). So I asked him why.

.@CraryAP: Any reason you’re not tweeting out updates to AP coverage of abortionist Gosnell’s mass murder trial?

I explained to others on Twitter:

.@craryAP is AP “national social issues” reporter. He tweets out local coverage and covers national angles on social issues stories.

Go back a month+ in @craryAP’s twitter feed and there are 0 tweets regarding abortionist Gosnell’s mass murder trial. Why?

.@craryap is prolific tweeter of “social issue” AP stories. But he’s been silent on Gosnell. Is it lack of AP coverage? Or why the blackout?

He hasn’t responded yet, and I’ll be sure to share his explanation when he does.

You can see his Twitter feed here. His favorite stories deal with homosexuality but he also gives some love to abortion-related stories. The most recent one was something about Ireland resident Savita Halappanavar, whose death reporters and other pro-choice activists (if not medical examiners) link to a denial of abortion — don’t confuse that story with the woman who died after a late-term abortion in Maryland recently, a story that also was downplayed and blamed on, by the Washington Post, “childbirth.” Really.

Anyway, perhaps he’ll get around to linking to coverage of one of the most salacious mass-murder trials our country has ever seen.

But this isn’t just about David Crary of the Associated Press. This is about quite a few reporters. And so I have a few other questions, which I posted on Twitter. I haven’t had any of the targeted reporters respond, much less justify, their news decisions, but I’ll keep you updated:

If you are a reporter who covered, say, Fluke getting called a bad name but not the Gosnell trial, can you explain news decision there?

If you are a reporter who covered, say, Komen defunding @ppact but not the Gosnell trial, can you explain news decision there?

If you are a reporter who covered, say, Akin being an idiot but not the Gosnell trial, can you explain news decision there?

And if you were 1 of many journos who gave those stories repeated histrionic coverage and have ignored Gosnell, please explain that, too.

If everyone agrees to stay silent about this abortionist’s trial, the media blackout works. But some folks are speaking out. And they have some very tough questions about what it says about our press corps. For instance:

As the fourth week of the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell draws to a close, the media blackout of one of the most hideous stories in modern American history continues.

If your primary sources of news are ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, you would be oblivious to the testimony of a clinic employee describing how he witnessed the virtual beheading of at least 100 babies born alive after unsuccessful abortions. Gosnell is alleged to have snipped the necks of the babies with scissors in order to sever their spinal cords. A witness says “blood and fetuses” covered the place. A grand-jury report states babies’ remains were stuffed in bags, cabinets and plastic jugs. Babies’ feet allegedly were stored in jars. Yet the clinic had many “repeat customers” — according to testimony elicited as a defense.

The butchering of 100 babies (at the very least), as far as the mainstream media is concerned, is far less newsworthy than the horrors of opposition research on Ashley Judd. The Times did make perfunctory mention of Gosnell at the commencement of the trial. It ran on page A17. In contrast, the Times ran the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse story on the front page . . . for 32 consecutive days.

Apples and oranges, perhaps. But if there were any parity in news coverage by the elite media, reporters would be asking for comment about the Gosnell trial from a representative of the abortion industry, lawmakers would be pressed on a legislative response, and editorials would abound on the need to protect society’s most vulnerable. You know the drill.

Indeed, if there were even a hint of news-coverage parity, reporters would be asking the president to explain his past opposition to legislation that would protect babies born alive after an abortion attempt. Just thirty seconds of his time. Less time than is spent asking your average congressman to rebuke a colleague for making a politically incorrect remark. The press does that all the time — to people they disagree with.

Instead, major media occupy themselves with Halle Berry’s “baby bump.” There are at least 100 murdered babies that deserve at least a fraction of that coverage. A press corps that can’t bring itself to even mention the story is not merely biased, not simply callous. It is sick.

If you wrote a single story, much less a deluge, about Komen, Fluke or Akin — and nothing on Gosnell — please explain. We’re waiting for answers to this journalistic question.

Hide-and-seek is a great game for kids. Less so for journalists. Image via Shutterstock.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I can understand looking on Twitter or Google, or whatever, to research if a reporter or media organization has covered a story. However, few people do such research. So, if a story or two pops up, is it fair to say, as some media defenders do, that the media has covered the story.Especially if it is a story that screams (like a baby being butchered) for blanket coverage???
    I venture to say that 90% or so of media consumers only watch a news show or two or read a newspaper or two. Consequently stories that are not “blanket” covered frequently do not break through into general public consciousness. But we later hear media defenders exploit the truncated coverage with an “Oh! we covered that!—We did our job!”

  • Edward Dougherty

    I would agree with that Dr. (and I’m using that title lossely) Gosnell deserves a long prison term if he is found guilty of these charges. And I think your anger is most appropriate. However, I also wonder if, besides the anger, we and the media also need to ask ourselves how to prevent future Dr. Gosnells. I ask this because I’m struck but the fact that he was practicing in Pennsylvania, which I have understood to have long been one of the most restrictive states in terms of abortion rights and in inspecting abortion facilities. Why did this atmosphere not serve as a deterrent to him and why didn’t he try to practice in a state like New York, which has looser laws? Why did the inspection laws in Pennsylvania not catch him sooner? And if Pennsylvania’s stricter laws did not stop or dissuade him, then what was wrong about Pennsylvania’s laws that failed to do that?

    I’m not trying to argue that the laws should be loosened because they didn’t stop Dr. Gosnell. But it does seem to me to further reflect on such laws and if they can be either improved or if they really are that effective to begin and that abortion is more of a cultural/spritual problem, rather than a legal one. I live in Michigan and I remember when Dr. Kervorkian was operating here and the folks who opposed him did so without using the anger at him to try and solve the problem that he posed. It took the culture and private actors, and not those who opposed him, to finally make him irrelevant (plus the fact that he could be his own worst enemy). I fear that I may see the same parallels here. I would have liked Ms. Powers piece to have touched more on why the restrictions in Pennsylvania did not serve to stop him and if there are lessons for both state and national policies from this.

    • mollie

      I am not certain how PA laws compare to other states but, according to the Grand Jury report, state agencies were accomplices in this horror fest because of their lack of oversight and enforcement even after previous deaths, reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and pain med scandals.

      • Richard

        There were many failures involved.
        First, the state regulatory agencies in charge of controlled medications.
        Second, the previous PA Governor’s administration, which did not monitor the clinic.
        Third, the current PA Governor’s administration, which prioritized restrictions on abortion, rather than acting like responsible adults and seeing what mess had been left behind through neglect.
        Fourth, both the health insurance companies and Medicare who reimbursed him for the use of medications and procedures which he was not competent (or certified) to administer.
        Fifth, the anti-choice movement, which spends a great deal of time and money picketing and “sidewalk counseling” patients in less poor areas, but missed this one.
        Sixth, the pro-choice movement, for missing this “clinic,” and not crying foul about the neglect (which must have seemed benign compared to other states’ policies, but was still outrageous neglect).
        Seventh, the police department for engaging in neglect when there were so many reports of women injured at this clinic.

        I could list more, but I feel like I’m going to throw up.

  • Sandy

    I just contacted CNN to ask if they would be covering this story. I urge you all to contact every media outlet you can and ask the same question.

  • Edward Dougherty

    But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, Ms. Hemingway? As I understand it, Pennsylvania did have laws mandating such inspections. But they obviously didn’t happen in this case. Perhaps this should also be a focus of any resultant media coverage?

    • John Pack Lambert

      Laws are useless if the people mandated with enforcing them fail to do so. With the media presenting the idea that any attempt to regulate actions of abortionists is “anti-choice”, medical care reulators who want to be “progressive” and respected seek to avoid any actual oversight. The fact that any actual oversight gets ignored in the media, while regulation of other medical procedures gets hailed as protecting consumers, also causes regulators to focus elsewhere. The media failure to report on this case will mean that in the future regulators will focus on other cases, because obviously bad abortion practicies is not something people actually want stopped.

      Laws are useless without enforcers, and as long as their is an attitude that abortionists should do anything they want, enforcement will not occur.

  • Deann Alford

    I first heard David Brinkley’s news definition while in journalism school: “News is what I say it is.” This is what said definition looks like in action.

  • Rev. Jonathon Bakker

    Mr. Dougherty – I believe the point is that nobody is having the (very necessary, in my opinion) conversations and debates you are starting to have here because this trial is not receiving appropriate coverage from the media.

  • Jerry

    I hope people are remembering to give kudos to USA Today for their coverage.

  • Greg

    Why isn’t HLN covering this?

    Every night, Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew are 100% Jodi Arias trial. As though *this* wouldn’t be a compelling trial?

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  • Edward Dougherty

    And I would agree, Reverend Bakker, on that. Our media has become a primary entertainment venue in our society and this story simply isn’t sexy enough to meet that entertainment threshold. Conversely, the coverage on the murder of George Tiller and the subsequent trial of his killer was also non existent. For both of these issues, seeing Rush Limbuagh lambasted (and I personally agree that he can’t be lambasted enough) had a lot of entertainment value.

    • Martha

      Edward, Rush Limbaugh may be a buffoon, but what he said about Sandra Fluke did not affect her physical health or safety. Yet the papers were all over it as a nine days’ wonder.

      Kermit Gosnell and his clinic – according to the grand jury evidence – infected young women with sexually transmitted diseases, drugged women to the gills routinely, allowed unqualified and untrained staff to dose those women, sent women to the local hospitals with injuries sustained after botched abortions, and finally killed one woman. Yet nothing about this in the major media outlets (fair play to the “Huffington Post”, they did cover this up to March at least).

      It makes it harder to believe that the reason the Fluke story got such coverage was because of the interest in protecting the health and well-being of women.

  • Edward Dougherty

    Actually, Martha, you answered your own question with your post (which I do largely agree with) when you said that Mr. Limbaugh is a buffoon. That’s exactly why it was covered so much. He demonstrated his buffoonery with the language he used.

    • northcoast

      I had to look up the meaning of the word. According to my college dictionaries, Rush would have to want to be a clown. Whatever your opinion, that is not an accurate description. Caught you, Martha.

      Nobody in the MSM seems to think it is news when a late night host manages to trip himself with a crude joke concerning Sarah Palin’s teen age daughter. Both Dave and Rush offered apologies.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    But which is worse–bufoonery that makes people sit up and look at an issue — or the silence of a news media, much of which is determined to bury or ignore an issue while children are murdered???? (And it is murder when a child is born alive only to then have its spinal chord severed.But ,of course, we are not supposed to use that word “murder” in polite company -even if true and accurate).

    • Gus Owens

      Would there have been media coverage if it had been some nutty pro-lifer who killed seven people in an abortion clinic? We know the answer about that because we have ample evidence of the corruption and distortion in the MSM.
      I remember articles last year proclaiming that the Benghazi story was dead. Not quite. Obama is fighting savagely to keep that under wraps.
      Why?

  • Steve Bauer

    Edward,

    From the Grand Jury Report:

    The first line of defense was the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The
    department’s job is to audit hospitals and outpatient medical facilities, like Gosnell’s, to
    make sure that they follow the rules and provide safe care. The department had contact
    with the Women’s Medical Society dating back to 1979, when it first issued approval to
    open an abortion clinic. It did not conduct another site review until 1989, ten years later.
    Numerous violations were already apparent, but Gosnell got a pass when he promised to
    fix them. Site reviews in 1992 and 1993 also noted various violations, but again failed to
    ensure they were corrected.
    But at least the department had been doing something up to that point, however
    ineffectual. After 1993, even that pro forma effort came to an end. Not because of
    administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania
    Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion
    clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of
    administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that
    inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.
    Better to leave
    clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and
    babies would pay.
    The only exception to this live-and-let-die policy was supposed to be for
    complaints dumped directly on the department’s doorstep. Those, at least, would be
    investigated. Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly. Several
    different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A
    doctor from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the
    department that numerous patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell
    with the same venereal disease. The medical examiner of Delaware County informed the
    department that Gosnell had performed an illegal abortion on a 14-year-old girl carrying
    a 30-week-old baby. And the department received official notice that a woman named
    Karnamaya Mongar had died at Gosnell’s hands.
    Yet not one of these alarm bells – not even Mrs. Mongar’s death – prompted the
    department to look at Gosnell or the Women’s Medical Society. Only after the raid
    occurred, and the story hit the press, did the department choose to act. Suddenly there
    were no administrative, legal, or policy barriers; within weeks an order was issued to
    close the clinic. And as this grand jury investigation widened, department officials
    “lawyered up,” hiring a high-priced law firm to represent them at taxpayer expense. Had
    they spent as much effort on inspection as they did on attorneys, none of this would have
    happened to begin with.

  • Steve Bauer
  • John M.

    Edward,

    This story has an unbelievable number of layers to it, if only reporters would look at it. There are even local ties, as in “Could this be happening at abortion clinics in the Springfield area? We reached out to the State Department of Health and Abortion to ask…” But instead we get greeted with silence so that reporters and editors aren’t faced with decisions about what to call the surviving victims of attempted abortions.

    BTW, for any reporters out there, there are adult survivors of abortion, and I’ll bet some of them are willing to speak on record. Just Google.

    -John

    • Lola LB

      You bet there are local ties. For instance, that poor young woman who was told by her doctor that the baby could have birth defects (unspecified) and went to a clinic two counties away from where I live in Maryland.

  • Sharon Philp

    Just a week or two ago the media was covering a dentist in Arkansas for horrific practices. Why would the Gosnell case be equitable? The Arias trial is mentioned almost nightly on FOX News. Why not the Gosnell trial?

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  • Jim

    Chicago public radio mentioned this abortion clinic several times in the past few days. I’m not sure if they have been covering the trial at all, but they did do a story on the abuses and the legislative response in Pennsylvania. Not all media sources are blind to it.

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  • Joanne Satmary

    There is only one TV station that has any news and that is Fox. You may not get ALL the news there but you do get most of the news. No other station has the right to say they have any news programs at all. Maybe some 1/2 hour local news or weather news but No national news that you can rely on. They are really State sponsored of what Obama tells them to say. Like you would have gotten in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.
    Any decent, respectable reporter would only report the truth and make sure none of it was, in no way State sponsored.

    • northcoast

      I watch Fox, but they have altogether too much personality and too little news.

      • James Stagg

        Yes, I watch FOX, too, and notice some reporters get very involved with the stories they present…they even get visibly upset! I compare that to Brian Williams on NBC, who has never met a disaster story he could not smile through….if the story (Benghazi) was even covered. FOX has been recently compared to MSNBC, and denigrated for not being newsy, non-committal souls like ABC, CBS, NBC. Personally, I’ll take FOX over the others all of the time (most assuredly over MSNBC) for presenting straight-forward stories…..often with liberal and conservative comment….BOTH. Can you tell me ANY OTHER cable or supposed news group (besides the WSJ) that attempts to provide balanced coverage of ALL stories…..not just those they feel “good” about? Naw, don’t mention CNN…..you don’t want to go (down) there.

        Of course, if you want to provide statistics on how many “news” stories each provides, I will be glad to see them…..but I wouldn’t want you to waste your time…………….

  • MikeN

    Poor minority women get crappy health care: News at ten.

    Wait, telegenic white girl goes missing! Cancel that last story.

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