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 a 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. He was talking with other outlets, such as the National Catholic Register, which revealed Daleiden is Roman Catholic in an intriguing story that has information in there I’ve seen nowhere else. That was published July 22.

The RNS story that picked up the NCR article came out July 23, more than enough time for the Bee to include the Catholic factoid in its July 28 story. Maybe they could have tried to find out which local church he attended plus interview the priest of that church? The videos have been coming out for some time now. Was this the best the Bee could do? What about this man's statement that this issue is crucial to him since his own birth was the result of a crisis pregnancy?

And when reporting on this issue, it helps to avoid charged language. Here’s what ran near the midpoint of the piece:

Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the level of planning and deception required to produce Daleiden’s undercover videos suggest a “more organized and coordinated” assault on Planned Parenthood than previous efforts.

What I’m going to say may only make sense to journalists, but “deception” or “planning and deception” should have been put in quotes. This loaded language implies that the writer agrees that Daleiden and crew were deceptive.

Near the very end of the piece, the reporter gives a quote by Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento in conjunction with a protest rally in front of a local Planned Parenthood affiliate. Was Cotta at the rally? It’s not clear. If so, did he give a speech or what he simply walking about?

I’m not sure if the reporter was hamstrung by factors we know nothing about or whether he was only given a few hours to throw together a story. The members of the GetReligion team are all mainstream-media veterans and we know that this can happen.

But judging from this piece, plus a scan I did of the Bee’s other articles on this topic, their reporting isn’t going to bring home any Pulitzers. C’mon Sacramento folks; the man in the middle of this controversy is a hometown boy. You can do better than this.

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