Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Los Angeles Times and the #Gosnell Blackout

Following up on my previous entry, "Mainstream Media Reporting on #Gosnell: 'Did You Guess Zero? You Win!'," I decided to search for "Kermit Gosnell" at the Los Angeles Times --- and it's more of the same. Until yesterday you would have found "0 Search Results for 'Kermit Gosnell'." This morning you'll find two results, and one of those is for the photograph on a story that itself is a story on the mainstream media's #Gosnell blackout. Can you say meta-journalism? See, "Dr. Kermit Gosnell abortion case: Why no national media spotlight?" And you gotta love the explanation from the Times' Jon Healey, suggesting that perhaps this wasn't really a national abortion story because #Gosnell's abortions weren't legal. That is, only abortion stories on legal abortion are news worthy, or something?

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I read a lot of news on a daily basis, online and in print, and the Gosnell story hadn't crossed my radar screen until Friday. So I agree with the likes of Salon's David Weigel and the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that this story has received surprisingly little attention -- from the mass media, that is.

Why? Several readers of The Times say it's because the liberal media are trying to protect their abortion rights agenda. I don't like trying to guess what's on the minds of the editors and reporters who decide what to cover; "the media" are still a collection of individuals who compete with one another. Reporters and editors make news judgments for themselves, not for the group. On the other hand, there's a herd mentality among the major outlets, which is why some stories become national causes and grounds for societal soul-searching even though they're not, objectively, all that extraordinary.

So perhaps the main reason the Gosnell allegations didn't get elevated to that level is because none of the big media powers took the plunge. And you have to wonder why. The testimony at the trial seems to have been pretty dramatic too. Conspiracy theorists on the right argue that the liberal media avoid this story because it might prod the public to demand more limits on abortion. But because Gosnell is accused of operating a site for illegal abortions, he could just as easily illustrate what happens when government makes it hard for women (especially low-income ones) to end their pregnancies early and legally. (Read this piece by Carole Joffe, a professor of reproductive health at UC San Francisco, for a good elaboration on that point.)
Right? Let's make it hard for women to "choose" to go to murderers like Kermit #Gosnell.

The Los Angles Times is ghoul-worthy! Chalk one up for being fair and balanced!

Perhaps Healey might just ask his own colleagues why this story wasn't newsworthy at the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that at one point in its history, during the leadership of Otis Chandler, sought to challenge the dominance of journalism's leading national newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. I guess these days the L.A. Times just aspires to line up, in malign neglect, behind the rest of the sheepish national press corps. Here's Healey's bio at the Times:
He is a member of the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times, which means he is one of a nameless, faceless group writing screeds that, technically speaking, reflect the views of the publisher (whoever that happens to be at the time)...
Well, as a "member of the editorial board" we can place the blame directly on dolts like Healey for the Times' complete absence of coverage of one of the most important national stories on reproductive rights in decades. Way to carry on the legacy of the great Otis Chandler!