The media’s silence on the March for Life

posted at 5:25 pm on January 24, 2012 by Tina Korbe

My hopes for a Time magazine spread about the March for Life protesters are fading fast. For the fifth year in a row, The New York Times ignored the March for Life, which drew at least a hundred thousand participants in D.C. alone. NewsBusters reports:

For the fifth year in a row, there was no story in the Times print edition on the annual March for Life against abortion in Washington, D.C., which every year draws massive crowds in unpromising weather on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion. …

As Times Watch reported last January, the 2011 print edition of the Times did not feature an actual news story of the thousands who marched in frigid weather, just two photos with the caption “Abortion Opponents Rally On the National Mall,” above a three-sentence description that led to a link to photographs online. That was actually a vast improvement; the Times in print absolutely ignored the March for Life in 2010, 2009, and 2008 (a 300-word story marked the 2007 March for Life on January 23 of that year).

The Times is far more eager to publicize protests in support of liberal causes, no matter how puny. When four protesters marched in support of the doomed Dream Act to grant amnesty to illegal immigrant students, the Times marked the occasion with a 780-word story.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. The NYT has a special standing feature on its blog, The Caucus, to document “Happenings in Washington” and not even that included a reference to the March. It did, however, mention that the N.H.L. Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, would be honored by the president at the White House. Important stuff.

Meanwhile, about 50,000 people participated in the West Coast March for Life and, according to a tweet from Michelle Malkin, not even the local media turned out to cover it.

As a reminder to journalists who’ve forgotten, in general, the bigger the size and scope of the event, the more newsworthy it is. That means a protest of 100,000 is generally more newsworthy than a protest of 10.

As always, I’m less troubled by media bias than I am by the media pretense of objectivity. Even if “objectivity” refers more to “a unity of method … than aim,” as the authors of The Elements of Journalism suggest, the NYT clearly lacks it. A “unity of method” would require that reporters go about determining newsworthiness using the same standards every time. Unless one such standard at The Times is “Is this a liberal event?” then the NYT reporters clearly don’t reliably follow the same method in their selection of stories.

Then again, if NYT editors are willing to admit that the political ideology behind an event does partly determine the amount of coverage they give an event, then I’d be more willing to admit they’re objective in the sense of using a uniform method. ThinkProgress, for example, uniformly and reliably covers news of interest to a left-leaning readership — and ignores news that runs contrary to the political principles its editors espouse. That, in a way, is both more transparent and more objective than purporting to be a paper of national record that only haphazardly records events according to the whims of reporters and editors.


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