Abortion

Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Although the news on the controversial Planned Parenthood selling-baby-parts videos, PP’s web site and various legal maneuvers blocking the videos seems to be changing by the hour, I chose to take on Sacramento Bee story released Tuesday. Call it a short-term GetReligion folder-of-guilt thing.

The headline: “New Planned Parenthood Controversy: Same Old Abortion Debate,” is an eyebrow raiser. Would the Bee say the following about the recently famous Cecil the Lion: “Freshly Killed Lion, Same Old Animal Rights Debate”? Really?

Before even reading the article, one gets a hint of the newspaper's take on this hot-button topic. Then:

Anti-abortion activists rallied in cities across the country in recent days, invigorated by the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the procurement of fetal tissue for research. For the activists, the videos provided a new -- and still unfolding -- source of indignation. They accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of aborted fetuses, a claim Planned Parenthood denies.
In Washington, Republicans called on Congress to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and GOP lawmakers in several states opened investigations of their own. Democrats pushed back by focusing scrutiny on the producer of the videos, a 26-year-old man involved in anti-abortion causes since his high school days in Davis.
But on the sidewalks outside Planned Parenthood clinics, familiar strokes of the anti-abortion movement -- wooden rosaries, amplifiers, faded signs telling women “it’s not too late to change your mind” -- belied the activists’ deeper hope that controversial videos might change people’s minds more broadly on abortion.
In that effort, there has been little evidence of success.

Much of the story is about David Daleiden, who attended a high school in Davis, about 15 miles west of Sacramento. Daleiden founded the Center for Medical Progress, which is releasing the videos. 

As regular news-consumers know, all news is local. Even as the local newspaper, the Bee doesn’t go to great lengths to look into Daleiden, who they said didn’t respond to requests for interviews.

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Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

Did GOP candidates really avoid moral and religious talk when courting black voters?

If you follow trends among African-American voters, you know that they tend to be more conservative on moral and social issues than other key players in the modern Democratic Party coalition. There have been some small shifts among younger African-Americans on issues such as abortion and gay rights, but the basic trends can still be seen.

So, African-American voters are more culturally conservative than most other Democrats, but they have remained very loyal when venturing into the voting booths -- especially in the Barack Obama era.

But one other factor should be mentioned. If Republicans are going to find any black voters that are willing to cross over and ACT on their more conservative values, it is highly likely that those voters will be found among those who frequent church pews. That isn't surprising, is it?

Thus, I would like GetReligion readers to dig into the following Washington Post story that focuses on attempts by GOP candidates -- including Dr. Ben Carson -- to recruit some additional black voters to their cause. The headline gives zero clue as to what this very long political story is about: "Clinton takes a swipe at Jeb Bush’s ‘Right to Rise.' "

What are readers looking for?

Well, personally, I find it interesting that the story contains, as best I can tell, zero references to religious, moral and cultural issues. Even in the material from Jeb Bush. Even in the references to the remarks of Carson, who is, of course, an African-American religious conservative who rarely gives a speech without talking about social issues.

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Planned Parenthood video dismissed: Washington Post goes after 'anti-abortion-rights advocates'

Planned Parenthood video dismissed: Washington Post goes after 'anti-abortion-rights advocates'

When opponents strike a telling blow, don't counterattack directly. Instead, hit back at the attackers. This is the mainstream media's stratagem for dealing with the series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking about making money with aborted baby parts.

You may recall Newsweek's hit piece, which focused largely on video maker David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress. Well, here we go again with the Washington Post fixating on three women in Congress who are leading the drive to defund Planned Parenthood. The story, part of the Post's column The Fix, sets up the mini-dossiers with paragraphs like this:

GOP leaders are smartly letting women in Congress lead the way. Male lawmakers dominate both the party's congressional contingent and the two bills introduced this week to defund the organizaton, but anti-abortion-rights advocates are hoping these three Republican women become the movement's faces.

The article gives a nod to the video and its outflow: "Incensed anti-abortion-rights advocates are raising questions about whether Planned Parenthood broke any federal laws related to late-term abortions and selling fetal tissue. The organization maintains it hasn't done anything wrong, and the videos are out of context."

But then the piece quickly gears up to its main aim of scrutinizing the Congresswomen who dare break ranks with their sisters in denying abortion rights. It does so with a laundry list of familiar devices.

Like in the paragraph highlighted above. Males "dominate" the party in Congress, as if they don't among Democrats; check out this graph in an earlier Fix. But the men are "letting" women lead. And they're "smart" to do so. You know, hide the basic maleness of opposition to abortion.

If you buy all that, you're nicely softened up for other ruses.

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Planned Parenthood reporting 'done right' -- the name on this byline won't surprise you

Planned Parenthood reporting 'done right' -- the name on this byline won't surprise you

Yes, Sarah Pulliam Bailey used to write for GetReligion. 

Yes, we're biased when it comes to her important work for the Washington Post. 

Yes, it's awkward when we start praising a friend and former colleague. (We've admitted as much.) We know that you know that we know that you know that.

But no, that's not going to stop us from calling attention to a story Sarah wrote this week related to the Planned Parenthood videos:

Antiabortion activists see new undercover videos of Planned Parenthood as their biggest opportunity since the 2011 Kermit Gosnell trials to energize support for the issue.
Planned Parenthood, which many antiabortion activists see as the face of abortion, has long been under attack, but the videos have set off renewed debate over its federal funding.

In fact, we're not the only ones who were impressed. Tom Breen, a former Associated Press newsman who did excellent work on the Godbeat, tweeted:

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New York Times on the Planned Parenthood videos: It's all politics, politics, politics

New York Times on the Planned Parenthood videos: It's all politics, politics, politics

Media coverage of the Planned Parenthood-undercover-abortion-videos matter has been underwhelming to say the least. However, this week there have been a few more articles out there about the controversy -- plus a third video.

The latest non-news news is that Planned Parenthood has actually asked the media to back off from the story and to date, I've seen no media organizations tell PP to go take a hike. Just before Planned Parenthood's request came this New York Times story about how Republicans are taking advantage of it all.

WASHINGTON -- Rick Perry’s voice softens when he talks about the joy he gets from looking at his iPad and seeing “that 20-week picture of my first grandbaby.” Marco Rubio says ultrasounds of his sons and daughters reinforced how “they were children -- and they were our children.” Rand Paul recalls watching fetuses suck their thumbs. And Chris Christie says the ultrasound of his first daughter changed his views on abortion.
If they seem to be reading from the same script, they are.
With help from a well-funded, well-researched and invigorated anti-abortion movement, Republican politicians have refined how they are talking about pregnancy and abortion rights, choosing their words in a way they hope puts Democrats on the defensive.
The goal, social conservatives say, is to shift the debate away from the “war on women” paradigm that has proved so harmful to the their party’s image.
Democrats were jolted by the latest and perhaps most disruptive effort yet in this line of attack by activists who want to outlaw abortion: surreptitiously recorded video of Planned Parenthood doctors casually discussing how they extract tissue from aborted fetuses.

Once again, we have a story that uses the much-maligned Planned Parenthood videos as a segue into what many reporters *really* think the debate is all about -- politics and politics alone. No religious beliefs. No convictions about the science issues involved. 

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LGBT activists send message to Pope Francis; so does The New York Times (again)

LGBT activists send message to Pope Francis; so does The New York Times (again)

Once upon a time, journalists had a simple device that they used to signal readers when experts and insiders on one side of a story were not interested in taking part in a public debate about their work or their cause.

When dealing with a Catholic controversy, for example, journalists would write a sentence that went something like this: "A spokesperson for the archbishop said he could not comment at this time." Or perhaps this: "The (insert newspaper name here) made repeated attempts to contact the leaders of (insert name of activist organization here) but they declined to comment at this time."

In other words, it was clear that newspapers thought that readers -- if they were going to trust the content of a hot-button story -- needed to know that reporters and editors offered shareholders on both sides of the issue a chance to offer their take on key facts. It was important for readers to know that journalists were not interested in writing public-relations pieces for a particular cause.

The bottom line: Have you ever noticed that people on both sides of complicated or emotional stories almost always have different takes on the meaning of key events and quotations?

That was then. Today, there are journalists who clearly think that this kind of extra effort in the name of balance, accuracy and fairness is no longer a good thing when covering stories that touch on key elements of their newspaper's doctrines. This leads us, of course, to yet another five-star example of "Kellerism" -- click here for background -- in New York Times coverage of Pope Francis.

As is the norm, the story begins with a very emotional and complex anecdote about Catholic church life in which, it appears, there was no attempt whatsoever to talk to people on the other side.

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Yes, we saw that rather stunning Gawker quote about God and the mainstream press

Yes, we saw that rather stunning Gawker quote about God and the mainstream press

For years, I have heard religious leaders -- yes, most of them conservative types -- ask reporters whether or not they go to church. It's not a nice question and, I would argue, it's not the right question to ask if the goal is to understand why the mainstream press struggles to cover religion news.

The goal of this question, essentially, is to show that an unusually high percentage of the scribes and editors in newsrooms are godless heathens who hate religious people. Now, I have met a few of those heathens in newsrooms, but not as many as you would think. I've met my share of "spiritual, but not religious" journalists and quite a few religious progressives. I once heard a colleague quip that the only place that the Episcopal Church's "Decade of Evangelism," in the 1990s, was a success was in newsrooms.

As I have said before on this blog, there are plenty of non-believers who do a fine job covering religion news. Then again, I have met believers who could not report their way out of a paper bag.

No, the question religious folks should be asking journalists -- when reporters are sent to cover religion events -- is this: How long have you covered religion news and what did you do,  professionally and/or academically, to prepare for this work? In other words, stop asking journalists religious questions and start asking them journalism questions.

If you want to see a "Do you go to church?" train wreck, then check out the following commentary (and then some) from Hamilton Nolan at Gawker that as been making the rounds.

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UPDATED: MZ's requests for a Planned Parenthood related New York Times correction

UPDATED: MZ's requests for a Planned Parenthood related New York Times correction

The Planned Parenthood fetal-tissue story rolls on in alternative media, with a second undercover video (unedited version here) offering some interesting headline hooks, for those with the stomach to use them.

One key word is "Lamborghini."

The hot phrase for the day is "less crunchy."

Will journalists be willing to interview Planned Parenthood defectors on some of these issues?

A day or so after the first David Daleiden video production surfaced, featuring a Planned Parenthood leader named Dr. Deborah Nucatola, I asked a basic question. If the first reports, mostly in conservative media, were based largely on the press materials circulated by the Center for Medical Progress, I wondered to what degree the mainstream news stories that were eventually published would center on the public-relations DNA of Planned Parenthood.

Now, a website called (C.S. Lewis trigger alert!) TheWardrobeDoor.com has noted an interesting problem at the end of a New York Times report in which Planned Parenthood leaders warn their supporters in Washington, D.C., that more videos are on the way. This passage, featuring Planned Parenthood lawyer Roger K. Evans, is at the very end of the report.

A Biomax representative at least once was admitted by Planned Parenthood employees to “a highly sensitive area in a clinic where tissue is processed after abortion procedures,” Mr. Evans wrote. Another time, a Biomax representative asked about the racial characteristics of tissue provided to researchers; anti-abortion activists have often alleged that Planned Parenthood engages in “genocide” of African-American babies. And Biomax proposed “sham procurement contracts,” offering one clinic $1,600 for a fetal liver and thymus, Mr. Evans said.
In the video, Dr. Nucatola says that clinics charge $30 to $100 for a specimen. Mr. Evans, in his letter, noted that she also said 10 times during a two-and-a-half-hour lunch that the charges were for expenses, not profit. But, he added, those statements were not included in the initial nine-minute video. Mr. Daleiden released what he called the full recording last week after Planned Parenthood complained of selective, misleading editing.

So what is the problem?

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Planned Parenthood video Stage 3: New York Times explores an ethics question!

Planned Parenthood video Stage 3: New York Times explores an ethics question!

I don't avoid the world of advocacy journalism online, but I also strive not to live there. However, I often bump into links that take me into liberal and conservative "news" sites and, every now and then, you hit some interesting info worth exploring (especially when there are URLs to original documents and sources).

If journalists are willing to do that kind of thing, this work could be part of what I called -- in an earlier post -- the Stage 3 coverage of the Planned Parenthood video story.

One such site is The Blaze, which actually has a piece online pointing toward some interesting trails. Click here to go there. Let's start here:

While activists have doubled down, Planned Parenthood responded ... by dismissing the allegation and claiming that its clinics simply help women who wish to donate the tissue of aborted fetuses to scientific research. On the other hand, Snopes.com, a fact-checking website, labeled the claim against Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life group, as “undetermined” based on the evidence.

Precisely! "Undetermined," as in journalists cannot avoid doubting and exploring the truth claims offered by Planned Parenthood and the same goes for its critics. What we need here is old-school journalism, which requires showing some skepticism after reading the press releases on both sides.

The Blaze team then talked -- wonder of wonders -- to a pro-life activist outside of the New York City-Washington, D.C., corridor who has (gasp) not made his mind up when it comes to judging the final outcome of this case.

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