Media blackout? What media blackout!? Planned Parenthood case is front-page news — this time

When the secretly recorded Planned Parenthood videos were released last summer, some accused the media of ignoring them.

Others said "thoughtful and substantive coverage" couldn't be rushed.

GetReligion highlighted both arguments in a July 2015 post: 

Six months later, nobody's claiming a media blackout this time.

As one GetReligionista put it:

The angle everyone is talking about is the fact that the videos drew almost zero MSM coverage, especially in elite (think NYTs) ink, but the indictment moved as a flash bulletin, with major coverage everywhere....

In case you (somehow) missed the big twist in the Planned Parenthood case, here's the lede from today's Page 1 story in the Houston Chronicle:

A grand jury convened to investigate whether a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic had sold the organs of aborted fetuses on Monday cleared the clinic and instead indicted the undercover videographers behind the allegations, surprising the officials who called for the probe and delighting supporters of the women's health organization.
The Harris County grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, both of California, on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It also charged Daleiden, the leader of the videographers, with the same misdemeanor he had alleged – the purchase or sale of human organs, presumably because he had offered to buy in an attempt to provoke Planned Parenthood employees into saying they would sell.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the indictments in a statement, noting the probe had lasted more than two months.
"As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us," said Anderson, a Republican. "All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case."

Among national newspapers, both the New York Times and USA Today played the indictments on the front page. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both included Page 1 reefers to the story inside the A section. The Associated Press and CNN also covered the indictments.

So is this a case of blatant media bias — with major news organizations downplaying the original videos that reflected negatively on Planned Parenthood while touting indictments targeting anti-abortion advocates who made the videos?

Yes. And no.

Yes, because media bias on coverage of the abortion issue is a longstanding problem. 

No, because we're comparing apples and oranges when you talk about the original videos and Monday's indictments.

Apples: The original videos did require some manner of journalists uncovering the basic facts. Even in a 24/7 Twitter environment, reporting does take time (although we certainly can debate how eager mainstream media were to engage in that reporting process and whether they apply those same scruples to other developing stories).

Oranges: The indictments didn't require heavy lifting on the part of journalists. The basic parameters of the story already were set. This was a case of grabbing the known details from the archive and updating them with new developments, including the district attorney's statement, the specifics of the charges and responses from advocates, politicians and other relevant parties. 

Now, let's play the "reverse the circumstances" game: If Planned Parenthood officials had been indicted this week instead of abortion opponents, would the media have offered the same level — and prominence — of coverage? Would that have been front-page news in the New York Times?

If you think it would have been — as I do — then you really can't complain too much about the coverage on the other side. 

Image by Ken Wolter, via

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