Search Results for: "march for life"

Debate at NYTimes: Was the March For Life news or not?

YouTube Preview Image

One of the most difficult concepts in journalism to communicate to people outside the field can be stated in this deceptively simple question: What is news? Or try this wording on for size: Why do some events receive major coverage and others no coverage at all?

Obviously the worldviews of the editors making the call play a role, but so do factors that are hard to explain. For example, are we talking about an event that takes place on a day when there are lots of other stories competing for space, time and resources? A quirky story that takes place on a day when there is very little else going on has a much better chance of ending up on A1 than the same story if it happens the day after an election or the day after a major weather event, and so forth and so on.

Long ago, I received a nasty letter from a reader who wanted to know why it was not news when her evangelical megachurch built a large new family life center, but it was news when a tiny downtown Episcopal parish decided to do a bit of remodeling that involved changing a window. Well, I explained, megachurches build new buildings all the time. The Episcopal parish project was symbolic because it involved making changes in the city’s oldest church. This was literally an historic site and, yes, the window was the original window in that part of the building.

Now, if the megachurch project had led to a battle over zoning laws, it might have been a news story, I explained.

Right, she said, journalists only cover disputes and bad news.

I think you can imagine the rest of that conversation.

Year after year, the March For Life in Washington, D.C. — as well as in other major cities — stirs up debates about this topic. After all, in most years this march is the largest public demonstration, by far, in the nation’s capital.

Ah, but it happens every year and this has been going on for decades. Thus, many journalists argue that there is nothing unusual about it.

Participants rarely buy that response and ask what kind of coverage the same march, year after year, if it was linked to an ongoing cause that enjoyed widespread support in elite newsrooms, instead of widespread apathy, skepticism or even scorn.

Ah, but what about 2014? This year the crowd was smaller than the 500,000 or so the previous year, due to stunningly cold weather conditions (which have also happened in the past, truth be told). So was the march LESS of a story due to smaller numbers or MORE of a story for the same reason?

This time around, the debate received some ink in a very important place, as noted by a Religion News Service scribe:

[Read more...]

Savvy PR firm scores NYTimes coup against March For Life

We’ve received quite a few complaints about the religion angle the New York Times chose for its story on the March For Life. And I’d sure as heck like to join in.

But before I do that, I want to point out that the Times also ran a straight news story covering the march and, unlike any year I can recall, it actually ran in the print edition and not just as a brief mention on a blog post. The story that has outraged so many folks is the primary story on the march that ran in a more prominent position than the straight story. In fact, it ran above the fold of the national news section, headlined “In Fight Over Life, a New Call by Catholics.”

The lede:

The March for Life in Washington on Friday renewed the annual impassioned call to end legalized abortion, 40 years after the Roe v. Wade decision. But this year, some Roman Catholic leaders and theologians are asking why so many of those who call themselves “pro-life” have been silent, or even opposed, when it comes to controlling the guns that have been used to kill and injure millions of Americans.

More than 60 Catholic priests, nuns, scholars and two former ambassadors to the Vatican sent a letter this week saying that if marchers and politicians truly want to defend life they should support “common-sense reforms to address the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”

A caption for the piece read:

Anti-abortion protesters flooded the National Mall in Washington on Friday for the annual March for Life. Many Catholic leaders and theologians are asking why many of those who call themselves ‘pro-life’ have been silent when it comes to gun control.

You’ll notice that marchers are only called “pro-life” in a scare-quotey sense to cast skepticism on their claims. You might also wonder if the Times broke precedent to cover the massive march so as to be able to criticize it with this more prominent story, but we can’t really know the answer to that question.

We’re a family site here so I’m going to be careful here:

Are you [bleeping] kidding me? Are you [bleeping] kidding me?

What? This is the religion angle for the massive, hundreds-thousands-strong March for Life that marks the murder of 55 million unborn children over the last 40 years? We’re going to turn it into something nebulous (no specific gun controls are even discussed) related to the media’s current political cause du jour?

And it gets worse.

Believe it or not, this is basically just a press release from the same savvy, highly funded PR firm that has been rolling reporters for the last year. One is beginning to think they enjoy the ride.

The group that put out the letter is … drum roll please …

[Read more...]

Foot-long subs vs. March For Life

YouTube Preview Image

The Associated Press has a Twitter feed with nearly 1.6 million followers. Those followers received two tweets about a gun control rally and march in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

“Gun control march in Washington to feature Newtown residents, pastors, parents and survivors of gun violence,” read one.

“PHOTOS: Thousands march for gun control on National Mall in Washington,” read another.

Considering the relatively small size of the march (Some said “nearly 1,000.” Others, as noted above, said “thousands.”), it makes one wonder how many links to stories and photo collections were sent out for the massive 40th anniversary March for Life.

The answer, of course, would be zero. Really, the AP Twitter feed never found it worthwhile, in its steady stream of tweets, to even mention the March for Life, much less link to a photo gallery of it.

My family and I participated in the March For Life and, smack dab in the middle of it, we didn’t really have much of a perspective of its size. It was extremely cold — just brutal conditions — so I kept my head down and my hands in my pocket. I knew that the number of Lutherans for Life, which was our contingent, was significantly larger than any previous year. If you watch the video above, which comes not from a mainstream media source but from Roman Catholic broadcast network EWTN, you can get something of a feel for how many people move past one bend in the march over the course of 8 minutes.

Our Lutherans started marching at 1:20 PM and we didn’t make it past the Supreme Court until 3:30 or so. The march goes on at that pace for quite some time.

And yet while only giving the briefest coverage to this massive march — or neglecting to give any at all! — many networks gave tremendous coverage to that gun control rally. Both rallies were described by some outlets as featuring the exact same number of attendees — “thousands” — even though the pro-life rally was exponentially larger (I don’t quite know what it means, but perhaps it’s worth considering that people who seek protection for unborn children are called “anti-abortion” while people who seek to limit 2nd Amendment protections are called “supporters of gun control” or “advocates of gun control.”)

Some readers complained about the lack of coverage on CNN. I don’t know if anyone has done a comprehensive analysis, but when I got home from the march, I watched for coverage of the commemoration of the 55 million unborn children killed via abortion in the last 40 years but only saw some serious attention paid to a dolphin that had gotten trapped in waters in Brooklyn that day and had died. If you wrote it as fiction people would say it was too over-the-top.

[Read more...]

How to write a bland story about the March For Life

As expected, the journalists at The Washington Post were pretty careful with their coverage of this year’s March For Life. As I wrote the other day, in a challenge to GetReligion readers:

I would imagine that the Post team will be rather careful in its coverage this year, after receiving rather stark criticism from its own reader’s representative. I predict some photos and even videos that capture the size of the crowd. I expect quotes from the young women who are the backbone of the event, year after year. …

As you read the coverage … pay special attention to the variety of voices who are interviewed on both sides. Were you impressed with the quality of those allowed to explain what this event, what this day, meant to them and to America? Was the language loaded and packed with “scare quotes” and labels? Did you hear from liberals who oppose abortion, as well as the political (as opposed to cultural) conservatives who support abortion rights?

In other words, I wanted to see more coverage, but I also wanted to see coverage that was more complex, that featured voices that journalists rarely include in this ongoing national debate.

I was seeking a more complex journalistic picture, not a picture that ignored one side or the other.

However, one long-time GetReligion reader saw things differently, even though Thomas Szyszkiewicz was moderately pleased with what the Post served up, this time around:

Actually, the Washington Post coverage was pretty decent this year: No “counterbalancing” opinions, no unattributed commentary — just straight reporting of the people who were there and even noting that most of the people were young. Even the photo gallery was good — only two out of 23 photos were of counter-demonstrators. … [A] good and fair job. … Overall, though, a vast improvement on past years.

Actually, that isn’t the kind of journalistic coverage that your GetReligionistas seek to promote, week after week, year after year. No “counterbalancing” opinions? Why not? There are plenty of crucial voices out there on the pro-abortion-rights side — voices on the left and the libertarian right, for starters. Those voices are part of the story.

Meanwhile, I do appreciate the salute to copy that is free of “unattributed commentary,” but there is no need for one-sided copy on an issue as complex as this one.

That doesn’t mean that journalists can’t cite the best version of the facts that they can assemble. There are ways to describe the size of a crowd of marchers and ways to count and describe the much, much smaller number of counter-demonstrators.

The main Post story attempted to do that — a bit. Here are a few samples, with my commentary:

Buses from around the country, mostly chartered by Catholic schools and organizations, brought groups of people to the Mall for a pre-march rally in which politicians, religious leaders and activists decried the 55 million abortions they said had been performed since the Roe v. Wade decision.

Wait a minute: There are no estimates from the cultural left and right over the number of abortions performed in the past 40 years?

[Read more...]

Time for the “March for Life” media debate (updated)

YouTube Preview Image

It’s that time again — time for the annual debate about media bias in mainstream press coverage of the annual March For Life.

This has been going on for ages. When I was in graduate school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the early 1980s, many of the media-bias studies that I read — studies done by both critics and defenders of the press — included questions about media coverage of abortion. As the years have passed, March For Life coverage has played a larger and larger role in this field of study.

Also, it has been a year since Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton wrote the following, in a column under the headline “An incomplete picture of the March for Life.”

One observer e-mailed that he stood at the Supreme Court and it took marchers two hours to walk by. That’s a big crowd. But no one knows how big it was. Law enforcement agencies no longer estimate crowd size, nor does The Post. One side or the other will accuse you of being biased if they perceive the estimates as too large or too small.

Still, you can find images of the large crowd taken by amateurs on Flickr or Facebook, and I imagine the AP took some, too. Probably Post photographers did as well.

But these shots didn’t find their way into the main Web photo gallery on the march. And I think this is where The Post fell down in its coverage of the march this year. And that’s mostly what antiabortion readers wrote to me about.

The online photo gallery contains 10 photos: seven tight shots of antiabortion demonstrators, two of protesters from the small abortion-rights counter-demonstration on the steps of the Supreme Court and one that showed both sides confronting each other there. In fact, eight of the 10 shots were taken at the high court.

Emotional shots make better photos, yes, but I would have chosen more from the broad expanse of the rally, and at least one photo showing a lot of cheerful, festive people, which is what I see at most demonstrations that I have covered over the years, regardless of the issue at hand.

Vernon Loeb, Post Local editor, said, “In retrospect I wish we had given readers a better sense of the overall magnitude of the march … it was far larger than 17,000.”

Over at the photo desk, photography director Michel du Cille may have been speaking for the newsroom majority: “We can never please this crowd.”

The key, for me, is that the March For Life is a news event about a major issue in American life, one that remains controversial and bitterly contested — 40 years after Roe v. Wade. The goal, for journalists, is to find articulate, qualified and symbolic voices linked to the march each year, with an emphasis on seeking trends in the movement as a whole.

Numbers do matter. A march that draws approximately 300,000 people to Washington, D.C., deserves significant coverage, no matter how many times it is held. Maybe journalists need to pretend this is a sporting event or a trade show.

The pro-life movement itself is remarkably complex, ranging from people who are striving to be consistently pro-life all the way over to some who seem to be anti-abortion and that’s about it.

There are large streams and small, in the river of people marching every year toward the U.S. Supreme Court. There will be thousands of young people from Catholic and Protestant schools. There will be a small, but significant, crowd of people from groups such as the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. A few folks will show up from the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League. Quality coverage will focus on the mainstream leaders in the movement, while also seeking the unique, if not surprising, voices present — including the small number of counter-protesters who will always be there. The majority is the major story, but the dissenting voices are important, too.

I would imagine that the Post team will be rather careful in its coverage this year, after receiving rather stark criticism from its own reader’s representative. I predict some photos and even videos that capture the size of the crowd. I expect quotes from the young women who are the backbone of the event, year after year.

Several GetReligion readers sent in the URL of a Post story that has already appeared, focusing on the new leader of the organization that stages the march. It includes some quality quotes from Jeanne Monahan, as will as some of the journalism language that drives the activists crazy — such as the first word in that headline, “Antiabortion March for Life gets a new head and, perhaps, a new focus.”

Here’s a crucial slice of the story. Pay close attention to the stream of unattributed statements of facts in the second paragraph:

[Read more...]

Missing March for Life photos discovered

On Thursday, we looked at the rather shocking slideshow at the Washington CBS affiliate. It was headlined:

Activists Hold Annual March For Life On Roe v. Wade Anniversary

But it somehow hadn’t shown a single picture of an activist at the March for Life! Instead, it showed multiple pictures of the same handful of pro-choice protesters who protested the massive March for Life.

First, we have an update. Around 7 p.m. on Thursday, three days after the March for Life, the folks at CBS found some pictures of pro-lifers to include, rather after the fact. So now about half of the slides are of the hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers who descended on the mall and about half are of the roughly dozen or so pro-choicers who protested that same march. And for this, which is still a ridiculous use of a slideshow, we are thankful for the improvement.

We didn’t even discuss much of the Washington Post coverage here at GetReligion. I’d pointed out the reporters rather odd crutch on the phrase “antiabortion ideology,” which she repeated throughout her piece, but we didn’t talk about slides. We did have some readers complain and apparently the Washington Post ombudsman got an earful as well. He devoted his column to the matter:

Abortion is an issue that evokes passion on both sides, and journalists have to be deft in covering it lest their in-boxes overflow with angry e-mails.

So it was this week with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973 and the accompanying March for Life that has taken place here every January since.

The demonstration was a big event, as it always is. As the Associated Press pointed out in one of its stories that ran on The Post’s Web site on Jan. 23, it is “consistently one of the largest protests of the year in Washington.”

He then discusses how absolutely no one knows the size of the crowd as no one does official estimates. The only event with an actual headcount is one of the masses that precedes the march. It had some 17,000 people, he writes, but that’s the only official count that was even mentioned in the story. So how well did the articles and accompanying slideshows explain the size of the crowd? Not so well:

Still, you can find images of the large crowd taken by amateurs on Flickr or Facebook, and I imagine the AP took some, too. Probably Post photographers did as well.

But these shots didn’t find their way into the main Web photo gallery on the march. And I think this is where The Post fell down in its coverage of the march this year. And that’s mostly what antiabortion readers wrote to me about.

The online photo gallery contains 10 photos: seven tight shots of antiabortion demonstrators, two of protesters from the small abortion-rights counter-demonstration on the steps of the Supreme Court and one that showed both sides confronting each other there. In fact, eight of the 10 shots were taken at the high court.

Emotional shots make better photos, yes, but I would have chosen more from the broad expanse of the rally, and at least one photo showing a lot of cheerful, festive people, which is what I see at most demonstrations that I have covered over the years, regardless of the issue at hand.

As anyone who has been at a March for Life can tell you, it is if anything criticized for not being somber enough. It is a festive celebration of life at least as much as it is a somber remembrance of legalized abortion. That photos didn’t capture that is not good.

But what I found interesting about the ombudsman column, which is totally responsible and fair, are this quotes from the editors. The local editor basically apologizes for making it sound like the crowd was only 17,000 or so people. The photo editor? Well:

Said Post Director of Photography Michel du Cille, “We can never please this crowd. We try for fairness to show both sides.”

Are you freaking kidding me? Now, you can peruse the several years of March for Life mentions here on this blog and find that we go overboard trying to praise anything even remotely fine about March for Life coverage over the years. And that goes quadruple for the Post over the years. Considering how low the bar was (some coverage at various papers during the 1980s and 1990s still gets mentioned by media observers), we’ve been downright generous. But I can’t think of an incident where the Post photography department even tried to please “this crowd.” And let’s say they did try to “please” the crowd by accurately portraying the march, that doesn’t justify failing to accurately portray it in subsequent years. If he wanted to defend the coverage this year, he should try to do that. Blaming the victim is just not appropriate. And this appeal to “both sides” is not relevant in this case, obviously. It suggests that some commenters to the previous post were right when they blamed not the photographers but their editors.

The rest of the article looks over other aspects of the coverage and Pexton has some favorable and unfavorable comments.

On the other hand, maybe Post Director of Photography Michel du Cille was merely comparing himself to the West Coast, where things are — somehow — even worse. The California Catholic Daily says the efforts required by San Francisco’s major media outlets to avoid covering the Walk for Life West Coast bordered on obsession:

Any event that would bring 50,000+ persons to a demonstration, any event that would cause the closure of San Francisco’s busiest street for more than a mile, any event that would cause the San Francisco Muni to reroute rail line F, and bus lines 2, 5, 6, 8, 8X, 9, 10, 12, 14, 14L, 19, 21, 27, 30, 31, 38, 38L, 45, and 71, could fairly be classified as “news.”

But when a newspaper’s agenda prevents it from covering news, one is almost forced to sympathize. It’s like watching a recovering alcoholic stalking down the liquor aisle at Safeway — jaw clenched, looking neither to the right nor left, hoping to reach the safe haven of frozen strawberries or Occupy Wall Street. …

The only article the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s major daily, did on the Walk For Life West Coast was prior to the event — and that C.W. Nevius’ column advising San Franciscans to ignore it! His editors, at least, appear to have taken his advice. The paper did send photographer Michael Macor to cover the event. He took some nice shots. They reproduced one in their newspaper. No article accompanied the photo. The Chronicle did reproduce nine photos on its website, still with no story, only a caption that read: “Thousands protest abortion Saturday at the eighth Walk for Life West Coast on S.F.’s Market Street. The crowd stretched from City Hall to Powell Street. Abortion rights supporters rallied at Justin Herman Plaza.”

Come on people. And it’s not that the Chronicle doesn’t cover ongoing protests. According to the California Catholic Daily, over the past 90 days, the Chronicle has published 415 articles on Occupy Wall Street. That’s a new ongoing protest and certainly we’d expect to see more coverage of it, but given the size of the crowds and the disparity in coverage, that’s just embarrassing.

So there’s certainly room for improvement. I’d advise the Post‘s photo director and all other journalists covering public protests to think far less about “pleasing” people — whether it’s the folks they hang out with in their newsrooms or the masses who are out in the streets protesting — and far more about just reporting the news as quickly and accurately as possible.

What’s missing from CBS’ March for Life slides?

The online producers at CBS posted a photo slideshow the other day that appeared under the following rather literal headline:

Activists Hold Annual March For Life On Roe v. Wade Anniversary

So, just thinking out loud, what percentage of the pictures in this gallery would you expect to be of, well, the thousands and thousands of activists who traveled to Washington, D.C., in order to take part in the annual March For Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade?

If you guessed anything other than zero, you would be wrong.

There are literally no pictures of any pro-lifers in this feature.

Instead, the entire slideshow consists of images such as the one embedded below. Really, go click through it, if you don’t believe me. (UPDATE: Around 7:00 PM on January 26, photos of pro-lifers were added to the gallery.)

Now, it is true that each year at the March For Life, you can count on seeing a handful of pro-abortion-rights protesters. Usually around a half dozen to two dozen.

The March for Life, on the other hand, features many more. How many more? Well, I imagine that the estimate put out by organizers of half a million is an overstatement, but you get the idea. Perhaps you can take a gander at this picture of this year’s (frigid, rain-soaked) march here that CBS was unable to get. One Mass — alone — at the National Shrine had an official attendance of 17,851. So basically about the same number on both sides, right?

No joke. Pro-lifers might recall the 2010 incident when CNN surmised that there might be more pro-choice activists at the annual March for Life than opponents of abortion. I’m not exaggerating. CNN’s Rick Sanchez stated that “there are both sides being represented” and then asked his producer, “Which side is represented the most Angie, do we know?” He didn’t get an answer and, thus, he went on to promise that CNN would “keep an eye” on the situation and report on the matter “fairly and squarely.”

When I noted in a recent post that the New York Times, which is normally accused of over-reporting on other protests, had failed to cover the march (again) and that the Washington Post was using weird language to describe Catholic doctrine on life issues, a commenter wrote:

It’s the third week of January so it must be time for the annual GR bashing of the MSM “coverage” of the annual “March for Life”.

Yep! You got it. It must be about that time. It’s really amazing, isn’t it, that we don’t fall all ourselves with praise for a media culture that ignores this large event.

Now, thankfully you can get the news from other sources, thanks to the wonders of social media. But should you have to? Of course not.

So what gives? Why do the media fail at this so consistently, year after year after year? What is it? Pro-life writer Elizabeth Scalia has some thoughts:

Unfortunately, the “big picture” is hard to come by, particularly if you’re looking for “big pictures” of this well-attended march. We have reached a remarkable era of photojournalism, as demonstrated by the once-noble Washington Post — one where a half million people can march, the headlines can call it “thousands” and the pictures show you none of it.

Someone asked me on Twitter, “why don’t they just report the truth” and I thought, “because they have given themselves wholly over to a lie, and they fear the truth. Having built up the lie for so long that it’s become their foundation, they know they cannot withstand an assault by the truth.”

So they have become truth-phobics, our mainstream media. They can’t tell you the truth about anything, anymore — they can only do whatever it takes to sustain the narratives they’ve constructed. …

You want the truth? You think you deserve it? The press can’t handle the truth; they can’t bring it to you. The New York Times just ignores inconvenient truth, entirely.

That’s why 250 people camping out in a park gets thousands of stories, while half-a-million marching on Washington does not get reported at all, or if it does, the pictures are cropped; the attendees are caricatured, mis-named and under-represented while their opponents are over-represented.

Scalia is writing from a particular point of view, obviously. But what do you think? Why do we see such problems year after year? What’s going on? What can be done to help reporters do a better job? In the case of CBS, for instance, maybe a pro-life marcher could have simply tapped the photographer on the shoulder and told him to look behind himself at the large crowds marching by the Supreme Court for hours on Monday afternoon? Something like that? What else?

Image of actual activists in annual March For Life via Telecare. And h/t to Vestal Morons.

Finding fresh angles at March for Life

The 38th annual March for Life was held today, an event for which media coverage is always a contentious topic. The video embedded here is something that came out from a pro-life group after some of the media coverage of last year’s march. As such, the language is rather partisan. But I highlight it to show what, exactly, pro-lifers complain about. Others argue that these complaints are such an annual rite themselves that maybe pro-life leaders should take some of the blame for their public relations problems.

Let’s look at some of the early coverage. First the lede to an NPR “news blog” report:

Marchers are gathering this hour on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for what’s become an annual event — the March for Life rally and demonstration by those who want to see the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision reversed and abortion made illegal again.

It’s not a big deal, but if it’s the 38th annual March for Life and Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, when, exactly, did this march become an annual event? It makes it sound like a recent occurrence.

It’s true that the march receives less coverage than its importance in the pro-life movement. So, for instance, there was nothing in the Washington Post print edition this morning, even a warning about road closures or other traffic issues. Or at least I didn’t see anything when I read the paper this morning. Normally for big protests here in town you’ll see more stories leading up to the event. And there were things to cover prior to today’s march — last night there was a Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for instance. And the folks that bus in from all over the country are sleeping on church basements and friends’ couches all over the region. Even just the management of the many buses is one of the hot topics in my old Capitol Hill neighborhood. The march itself is just one part of days’ worth of events. But annual events just aren’t considered as newsworthy in the minds of many editors.

Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a compelling story about the 6,000 marchers from Pittsburgh. Here’s how it begins:

When she became pregnant as an unmarried college student 31 years ago, “I never considered that there was a life being nurtured inside of me,” said the Rev. Peggy Means.

She had an abortion, which she thought of as “a clinical procedure that I needed to get on with my life.”

But today she will tell her story to thousands of abortion protesters at a rally as part of the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Her goal is to urge other women not to have abortions and to reach out to those who have.

The article includes a lot of data and explanation of the march and surrounding events. It even gets into such topics as grace and redemption! Certainly this is not standard for coverage of the march, but it’s a great example of how to write an interesting story about the real people who come to the event. It’s also funny to me that Pittsburgh alone sends 6,000 people but usually the entire crowd size is characterized as “thousands.” While technically accurate, it minimizes the size of the crowd, which organizers claim number in the hundreds of thousands. It’s hard to get an accurate count but “thousands” just doesn’t quite cut it, I don’t think.

I have to say that I enjoyed a brief Washington Post report from the youth mass at the Verizon Center prior to today’s march. That morphed into a larger story about the day’s events. Here’s a chunk dealing with the morning mass:

More than 27,000 young people secured tickets for the morning concert, pep rally and Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Washington. For the first time, a parallel event was held at the D.C. Armory to handle the overflow crowd.

The Verizon Center event was part pep rally, part rock concert, with entire sections of worshipers standing up to cheer wildly for their local leaders as the names of bishops and archbishops on the platform were announced.

The homily was given by the Rev. Mark Ivany, a priest at Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda. He compared the crowd to civil rights advocates of the past, such as those opposing slavery and advocating for women’s right to vote.

“The greatest difference between other civil rights movements and this one is that most of the people affected by Roe v. Wade can’t march on Washington,” Ivany said. “They can’t give great speeches.”

The report has a ton of substantive color. We learn that Washington archbishop Donald Wuerl received a 60-second cheer from the crowd, second only to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the pope’s representatives. The young people who read wore hoodies and jeans, some read in Spanish, some in English, some accompanied by guitar. The reporter, Michelle Boorstein, mentions a few signs that were hung from the railing:

“I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born,” read one. Said another, “A mother’s womb should be the safest place on Earth.”

Before the Mass, 100 priests heard confessions inside the Acela Club, an upscale restaurant inside the sports arena.

I was unable to go down for today’s rally but have covered enough of them to say that this report just sounds so much more accurate than much of what passes for coverage. Unlike what was reported last year by Newsweek, young people are everywhere at the march. Many of them are Catholic. So a story that gets the youth angle and the Catholic angle is key. I also like the way that Boorstein simply quotes what she hears and sees. It seems basic, but it’s just a good way to go about covering an event that, while huge and long-running, is also controversial. It’s also worth noting that Boorstein and Rodgers are religion reporters and that it’s usually a good idea to put a religion reporter on the March beat. That’s because the march, while including people who are not religious, is full of religious people and their language and behavior reflects that. Someone who is not familiar with the prayers and hymns of religious people will have a more difficult time covering the event.

The Post article also focuses on the importance of social media to the pro-life movement. (It’s nice when reporters are able to find fresh angles on these annual events, too.) To that end, I also thought the Post‘s Twitter-tracker in this blog post helped readers get a feel for how pro-lifers commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

It’s impossible to cover everything that happens at these events — I would love for a reporter to cover the Lutherans for Life that meet for Divine Service at my congregation the morning of the march — but that probably doesn’t even rank on their wish list. I do hope to see coverage of the vigil at the Chinese Embassy tonight, to protest China’s “one child” policy and the subsequent abortion of untold numbers of girls there.

There are many abortion-related stories that have been written in recent days, although not as many as you might have expected regarding the abortion doctor charged with eight murders. We likely won’t get to them all but I wanted to generally note that the media have covered some of the legislative aims of pro-life groups that won big in recent elections. Such coverage is helpful.

Also worth noting is this Mother Jones profile of a lawyer who fights abortion. While the magazine and its audience or unequivocally pro-choice, the article is fair and challenging. It includes the role religion plays and aims to understand the motivation of the attorney. No matter your personal views, it is well worth a read.

Back to march coverage. I know that many, many readers complain about how the march is covered. Can you let us know what, specifically, bothers you about the coverage and what you think could be done to improve it? Focus on constructive criticism rather than just complaints, please.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X