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Gazette Premium Content OUR VIEW: Media biased in abortion doctor's trial (poll)

GAZETTE EDITORIAL Updated: April 17, 2013 at 12:00 am

If a man is charged with murdering seven kids, Americans expect to hear about it. Serial murders of children should be a big deal in a country founded to protect life, liberty and pursuits of happiness. Murdered babies haven’t life, much less liberty or happiness.

It is inconceivable to think that mainstream media would effectively ignore the murders of seven children and one mom. If they would downplay this event, they might just as well keep us in the dark about a bomb that kills three people in Boston. They might as well ignore a school shooting. They might as well blow off the trial of the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller, an abortion specialist in Kansas.

It is happening. The media have collectively minimized the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. When Gazette editors searched for fresh wire coverage Monday, all they found was a three-paragraph brief. We ran a 750-word story from the Philadelphia Inquirer after the trial began, but wire copy has been scarce relative to the magnitude of the case.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been on trial for nearly a month. The abortion specialist faces charges of botching abortions and then murdering babies fully birthed and alive.

The charges result from witness testimony of his employees and an FBI raid after authorities learned that Gosnell may have killed a mother with labor-inducing drugs and painkillers.

This is not about abortion. For better or worse, abortions are legal and Gosnell was free to perform them. This is about suspected killings of eight people living outside of the womb. Prosecutors may seek the death penalty if Gosnell gets convicted. They have taken this no less seriously than if Gosnell were charged with walking into a preschool with an AR-15 — an event that would rightly result in media outrage and emergency Congressional hearings.

Nearly a month into the trial, the Media Research Center complained in writing to ABC, NBC and CBS because the networks had made no mention of it during their major newscasts. The letter called on the networks to “stop censoring coverage of the trial.”

Investors Business Daily reported that a basketball coach who shoved and cursed at players received 36 stories by the three major networks, consuming more than 41 minutes of airtime, at a time they could not afford any coverage of Gosnell. Sad as the bully coach saga may be, the players get to live.

When complaints of the scant coverage reached Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, she investigated. The public editor works independently as a check on the newspaper’s reporters and editors.

Sullivan found that her publication had carried only three full stories about the murder charges since 2011. When she spoke with national editor Sam Sifton, he said: “We’re monitoring it, and I expect we’ll have something.”

Washington Post Editor Marty Baron, confronted with the issue, told media writer Erik Wemple on Friday that his newspaper would send a staff reporter to the trial — weeks after it began. The media seem more interested in the school kid who chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.

When one rich white child was killed in Boulder in the mid-1990s, The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC and most other big media obsessed about it daily for more than a year. Reporters even perched themselves in trees outside of JonBenet Ramsey’s home to monitor cops.

The Atlantic published a story Monday titled “14 Theories for Why Kermit Gosnell’s Case Didn’t Get More Media Attention.” Many theorize that journalists can’t get jazzed about charges against an abortion doctor because their professional culture values abortion rights.

Victims in the trial are black, and another theory reported by The Atlantic holds that “horrific things happen to poor black people in urban areas all the time, and the press ignores them. Why should this be different?”

We don’t have a theory. We only know the lack of coverage is tragic.

Research by the Pew Center for People and the Press found in 2012 that the public’s trust in the mainstream media had reached an all-time low, with an approval rating just above that of Congress — which ranks in the low 20s.

Dr. Gosnell stands charged with eight counts of murder. Not eight counts of protecting abortion rights. Eight counts of murder. The media ignore this at their own peril.

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