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Abortion-Doctor Coverage and the 'Poor Black Victim' Theory

Kermit Gosnell (AP)
Kermit Gosnell (AP)

According to the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, this is just one of 14 explanations circulating for the sparse coverage of the abortion provider charged with killing babies and neglecting women in his care.

Journalists, news junkies, and casual news consumers are all offering theories of what drives the media. Wildly divergent theories. And every last one amounts to a fellow member of our polity saying, "This is my notion of how America's primary means of civic communication works" …

2) The Poor, Black Victims Theory

This theory holds that sparse coverage shouldn't surprise us, despite the sensationalistic details of the Gosnell case, because horrific things happen to poor black people in urban areas all the time, and the press ignores them. Why should this be different? This theory is at odds with the counter-theory that the liberal media typically obsesses over stories about poor, black victims, at least when they're subjected to blatant racism like the women in the Gosnell case. Sparse coverage, despite the provocative racial angle, proves a media coverup, according to the counter-theory.

Setting aside the conclusions, neither premise is completely wrong.

Horrific things do happen in poor, minority neighborhoods all the time without anyone in the press (or elsewhere) seeming to care. Newspapers cover rich neighborhoods better than poor ones, in part because that's where a disproportionate number of subscribers live. Journalists are surrounded by educated, comfortably middle-class people. When they get a story tip from a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance, it is seldom a poor person. Blacks are underrepresented in newsrooms …


Read Conor Friedersdorf's entire piece at the Atlantic.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.


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