There is a reason that I held off writing about mainstream news coverage of Rep. Brian Sims and his online activism against people praying at his local Planned Parenthood facility.
To be blunt: I was waiting for some mainstream media coverage of this digital drama. The fact that this took several days is really interesting — from a media-analysis point of view.
Let’s look at this through the “mirror image” device that your GetReligionistas have been using for years.
Let’s say that a group of LGBTQ demonstrators decided to stage protests outside the doors of the Family Research Council — peacefully reading selections from the latest version of the Book of Common Prayer. The protesters include teens and an older person who is silently using a rainbow rosary.
Then a politician approaches, perhaps a GOP leader who backs the FRC. Using his smartphone to capture the proceedings for online use, he begins berating the gay activists, using language that focuses on age, race and religious beliefs. This evangelical politico also offers to pay viewers $100 for information on the teen-agers, thus helping evangelical activists to “visit” their homes.
All of this is posted online by this member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
How quickly would this draw major coverage at CNN? How about the New York Times? Note: We’re seeking serious, original coverage, not short Associated Press stories or aggregation reports built on clips from online chatter (see this Washington Post item).
Eventually, The Philadelphia Inquirer — to its credit — followed up on the explosion of Twitter activity on this topic. The lede did use a mild version of the “Republicans pounce!” theme, but took the issue seriously. Here is a key chunk of that breakthrough mainstream-news media report:
In one video, Sims approaches a woman and three girls who appear to be in their teens outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 12th and Locust Streets and refers to them as “pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here.”
“I’ve got $100 to anyone who will identify any of these three,” Sims says in the video, adding that he is raising money for Planned Parenthood.
The unidentified woman responds, “We’re actually here just praying for the babies.”