Did conservative media miss the Gosnell story, too?

Call this The Mainstream Media Empire Strikes Back.  After an avalanche of criticism over their failure to pay attention to the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the national media began pointing fingers back at their conservative-media critics and accused them of ignoring the story, too.  Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi dove into Lexis-Nexis to accuse The Weekly Standard and National Review of hypocrisy, for instance:


The charge of liberal media bias is perhaps undercut by the fact that a number of conservative media outlets — and conservative leaders — overlooked the story, too, until a flood of tweets and commentaries about it began late last week.

The Weekly Standard and the National Review, two leading conservative magazines, for example, hadn’t published anything on the trial, according to a search of the Nexis database. The New York Post’s conservative editorial board has written one commentary — an editorial lamenting the lack of coverage, which, although it doesn’t mention it, includes its own paper. The Washington Times has published five staff-written articles and guest commentaries on the matter, all focusing on the absence of press coverage.

Fox News has been the only consistent national TV source on the story, having run 11 news reports or commentaries on it over the past month. Among national print outlets, the Associated Press has covered the trial extensively. The story has been prominently featured in the Huffington Post and discussed on its Huffington Post Live webcast. The Huffington Post is generally considered a liberal news organization.

It’s not as if outlets weren’t aware of Gosnell’s case, since his arrest in 2011 was widely covered. But the trial received no mentions on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC and PBS programming until last week. NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported one piece on it at the end of last month, as did the New York Times on March 19. Until Friday, CNN had aired only 76 words on the trial when host Jake Tapper mentioned it March 28. The Washington Post hadn’t reported a word on the trial until Friday.


Jim Geraghty points out in his Morning Jolt that this research was oddly … selective:

Notice the careful wording on that accusation. Of course, several of my colleagues wrote about the charges against Gosnell before the trial. (The opening statements in Gosnell’s trial began March 18.)

And if I’m reading Farhi correctly, he’s only looking at the print magazines, not the online versions – which, as we all know, generate a lot more material, day in and day out, than the print versions of our magazines.

Jim provides a number of links to coverage of the Gosnell story, and then resets the debate properly:

But none of that will be acknowledged by Fahri, because it interferes with the point he wants to make, that “media bias” isn’t to blame for the fact that Kermit Gosnell only became a household name last week.

Listen up, media. The existence of other factors – the fear of offending squeamish readers, limited budgets, the presence of other news events, the lack of television cameras in the courtroom – doesn’t disprove the factor of bias, the notion that at many allegedly “mainstream” publications and outlets, a political and ideological lens skews the perception of what is big news and what is, in the words of the Post’s health policy reporter, just a “local crime story.” As Jay Nordlinger lays out, there is always an editor’s decision of which events get “flood the zone” style coverage, and that decision inevitably reflects that editor’s worldview and perspective. News that damages key tenets of the Left – i.e.,the notion that late-term abortion is necessary, good, and moral objections to it are outdated, fringe, religious zealotry – rarely is deemed big news.


For the record, Hot Air has been covering this story from the release of the grand jury report:


By Ed Morrissey • January 23rd, 2011

The trial coverage began here when the testimony directly touched on the atrocities in Gosnell’s abortion clinic, although we mentioned it in two posts prior to that point.  It took days before the national media bothered to notice even that testimony, though, and they would have continued to blithely ignore it if the outrage over their silence hadn’t forced them to start paying attention.  Farhi’s trying a sleight-of-hand to fake readers into forgetting that it’s the job of newspapers and national media to inform readers, a task at which the Post and other national outlets utterly failed.

Update: Via Scott Johnson, the Post’s Melinda Henneberger, a pro-life liberal, has a much different take:

But, why wasn’t more written sooner? One colleague viewed Gosnell’s alleged atrocities as a local crime story, though I can’t think of another mass murder, with hundreds of victims, that we ever saw that way. Another said it was just too lurid, though that didn’t keep us from covering Jeffrey Dahmer, or that aspiring cannibal at the NYPD.

Yet another said it’s because the rest of the country doesn’t care about Philadelphia — that one was especially creative, I thought. And a friend argued that any “blackout” boiled down to the usual lack of media interest in the low-income community Gosnell “served.” (While he routinely turned poor, black patients over to assistants who lacked even a high school education, according to court testimony, the white patients he seated separately, and treated himself.)

I say we didn’t write more because the only abortion story most outlets ever cover in the news pages is every singlethreatorperceivedthreattoabortionrights. In fact, that is so fixed a view of what constitutes coverage of that issue that it’s genuinely hard, I think, for many journalists to see a story outside that paradigm as news, even if that’s less a conscious decision than a reflex. …

Planned Parenthood’s Snow was similarly obtuse, either willfully or out of habit, in testifying against a Florida bill that would have required medical care for babies who survive abortions. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion,” she was asked, “what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

Her answer was a familiar one: “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”

Though it pains me to say so, that’s the same stand Barack Obama effectively took when he voted against a similar Illinois bill — even after the addition of a “neutrality clause” spelling out that the bill would have no bearing on the legal status of the (you say fetus, I say unborn child) at any point prior to delivery, and thus could not be used to outlaw abortion.


Just remember who the extremists are in this debate, and then ask why the media didn’t cover the Gosnell atrocities.

Update: Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard e-mails me to note that they first covered the case in January 2011, with this as a major article in the print edition. I had meant to do a search at TWS too but got distracted and forgot to include one. I’d bet that Halper or others at TWS will have their own response to Farhi, so keep checking back over there.

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