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Kermit Gosnell: Who's to Blame for Weak National Coverage?

Pro-life protest in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Pro-life protest in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

The facts emerging from the case of abortionist and alleged murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell are horrifying. Slate's David Weigel looks at how the national media gave the tragedy such shoddy coverage.

Republicans weren't talking about it either; they were talking about that Planned Parenthood video, because taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is an active political issue. But Powers' column kicked off a Twitter-driven campaign to shame journalists into covering the Gosnell trial. Mollie Hemingway, a Christianity Today columnist, burned up the Twittersphere asking journalists like the Washington Post's Sarah Kliff and The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta why they hadn't covered Gosnell. Franke-Ruta actually had, but Hemingway argued that her one item wasn't nearly enough. She got more results; before midnight, BuzzFeed published a quick list of "four documents to understand the Kermit Gosnell trial." (UPDATE: This wasn't Buzzfeed's first item about the case. It ran a recap of the "House of Horrors" trial earlier.)

Let's just state the obvious: National political reporters are, by and large, socially liberal. We are more likely to know a gay couple than to know someone who owns an "assault weapon." We are, generally, pro-choice. Twice, in D.C., I've caused a friend to literally leave a conversation and freeze me out for a day or so because I suggested that the Stupak Amendment and the Hyde Amendment made sense. There is a bubble. Horror stories of abortionists are less likely to permeate that bubble than, say, a story about a right-wing pundit attacking an abortionist who then claims to have gotten death threats. …

So the question, raised by pro-lifers, is this: Explain to us why Gosnell isn't a national story. Somebody else can try. I can't explain it. It's never made sense to me, how a local crime story becomes a national story. Two words: "Poop cruise." CNN ran hours of coverage and grainy video of a stranded Carnival cruise ship, a situation that inconvenienced many and killed none. How does a missing college student or an angry man in a TSA line become part of Our National Conversation? I don't know. I do know that a reporter in the bubble is less likely to be compelled by the news of an arrested abortionist.


Read David Weigel's entire piece at Slate.

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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