March For Life

Flash back: Where did term 'opposition' come from in Trump vs. @NYTimes war?

Flash back: Where did term 'opposition' come from in Trump vs. @NYTimes war?

Believe it or not, we did get a "Crossroads" podcast recorded late this week, even as I keep fighting a sick-unto-death virus that I obtained on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. at midweek. I've been sleeping, oh, about 16 hours a day.

Yes, I can follow Twitter some while laying on my back with my glasses perched on my nose. What I have been reading has only made me more and more furious.

Right, back to the podcast. Please click here to tune that in. You will probably be able to hear that I am under the weather in the recording. You will also hear that, for some strange reason (I blame fury and delirium), that I kept putting an "i" sound in the last name of Donald Trump's media-bating pro Stephen K. Bannon -- as in "Bannion." Mea culpa

The podcast focuses on the question of whether many elite journalists have reached the point that they simply not willing to listen to what Trump is saying (yes, it's often incoherent) or even to the factual details in the documents spelling out some of this actions. At the same time, we recorded as the annual March For Life was unfolding and it was clear that some media outlets had poured on the coverage (think The Washington Post), while others had done next to nothing with live work.

So, is the media listening? Do some elite journalists want to listen? Or, to use the Bannon phrase adopted (see video up top) by Trump, are The New York Times and other powerhouse news organizations now functioning as the clearly non-loyal opposition (after eight years of near worship for the previous president)?

Let's back up and look at two things one more time. First, what did Bannon tell the Times, once again?

“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

I do wonder what the word "here" means in that quote, as in "the media here is the opposition party." Is that D.C.? The Acela zone?

But where did Bannon get this idea that the Times, in particular, would fill that oppositional role so openly?

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Just listen for a while: What Spayd said @NYTimes. OK, even what Bannon said ...

Just listen for a while: What Spayd said @NYTimes. OK, even what Bannon said ...

For the past several days, I have been in transit from New York to Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and finally home -- all while getting sick as a dog, as we would say in East Tennessee. So I confess that I'm a bit out of touch, when it comes to what's been happening in news and social media.

But let me try to pull things together from my fevered point of view. It seems the hot media items have something to do with President Donald Trump's bluster-maestro Stephen K. Bannon saying something about America's elite media needing to "shut up" and/or do some listening. In fact, if you search for "Bannon," "mouth" and "shut" right now on Google News you get a mere 238,000 hits.

Oh my. What did this man actually say to The New York Times

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Oh my, again. Never use a flyswatter when a baseball bat will do. But let's assume that this quote should not be read with the kind of hyper-literalism the Times team would be tempted to call "fundamentalism" in another context. (As usual, turn to M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway at The Federalist for a stunning summary of the online storm.)

Instead of jumping straight to the nuclear option -- Trump aide tells press to shut *$^@#*+ up (some of that was implied, to be sure) -- I think it's possible that the actual content of that quote could better be stated as: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut for a while and just listen."

Right, right. All I did was move the words "for a while." I think that's what Bannon meant, since everyone knows that the press -- when it comes to listening to Americans on tense topics such as politics, culture and, YES, religion -- is supposed to be listening all the time. I think that's an essential part of their job. 

Is the actual content of this acidic Bannon comment radically different than what ordinary readers said in letters to Times Public Editor Liz Spayd in the hours after Trump won the White House race? Let's flash back to that, while remembering (hello editor Dean Baquet) that discussions of this kind, at the Times and in other elite newsrooms, often include references to the need to "get religion."

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Does New York Times style guide discourage using 'March For Life' in news reports?

Does New York Times style guide discourage using 'March For Life' in news reports?

Is anyone really surprised when there is controversy about mainstream press coverage of Washington, D.C., marches linked to abortion?

Honestly. I was reading articles on this topic back in the early 1980s during my graduate-school days at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Abortion had already emerged as one of the hot-button issues in any study of news-media bias.

So are we really surprised that The New York Times published a news article -- not a column or analysis piece -- in which great care appears to have been taken to avoid using the words "March For Life" when reporting on the 2017 March For Life?

We will come back to that topic, after a flashback to 1990. That's when The Washington Post put a spotlight on this issue with it's radically different coverage of two different D.C. marches about abortion. Post management eventually conceded that something strange had gone on.

First, there was a major march in favor of abortion rights. Here is how David Shaw, writing in The Los Angeles Times, described the Post coverage of that event:

... When abortion-rights forces rallied in Washington ... the Post gave it extraordinary coverage, beginning with five stories in the five days leading up to the event, including a 6,550-word cover story in the paper's magazine on the abortion battle the day of the event. The Post even published a map, showing the march route, road closings, parking, subway, lost and found and first-aid information.
The day after the abortion-rights march, the Post published five more stories covering the march, including one -- accompanied by three pictures -- that dominated Page 1. The march stories that day alone totaled more than 7,000 words and filled the equivalent of three full pages, including most of the front page of the paper's Style section.

How did that compare with Post coverage of the next major rally and march, organized by the National Right to Life Committee? Maps? Major features? There was modest, but significant, coverage in other major news media. But at the major news outlet closest to the march?

... The Post consigned the rally to its Metro section and covered it with just one, relatively short story. ... Rally sponsors were outraged.

This incident, to be blunt, became the template for future battles over media coverage of these kinds of events inside the Beltway and in other major cities nationwide.

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Hey journalists: Name a mainstream pro-life leader who didn't pound Trump the other day

Hey journalists: Name a mainstream pro-life leader who didn't pound Trump the other day

OK, raise your hands if you are surprised that Citizen Donald Trump appears to have had zero serious contact with the Right to Life movement, in either its conservative or progressive forms.

Ironically, the main people who know how tone-deaf he is on life issues are people who are actually in the movement. People outside the movement may actually think that Trump's verbal misadventures on MSNBC the other day raised edgy and important issues.

So here is another way of looking at this: Raise your hands if you are surprised that the Associated Press team put someone on this story who appears to have had zero contact with the pro-life movement and, thus, had no idea what that movement actually believes on issues linked to women who have had abortions?

Check out the top of this stunningly unbalanced -- the word "blind" would be a kind way of stating things -- AP report on the Trump fiasco:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Frustrated Republicans grappled with new fears about Donald Trump's impact on their party Wednesday, as the billionaire businessman's campaign rivals targeted his punitive plan for fighting abortion and extraordinary defense of his campaign manager, who police say assaulted a female reporter.
Concern rippled through Republican circles nationwide, yet few dared criticize the GOP front-runner directly when pressed, leery of confronting the man who may well lead their election ticket in November.
Their silence underscored the deep worries plaguing the party's leaders -- particularly its most prominent women -- who are growing increasingly concerned that a Trump presidential nomination could not only cost the 2016 election but also tarnish the party brand for a generation of women and young people.

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Define 'hundreds,' please: New York Times does epic job of dissin' March For Life (updated)

Define 'hundreds,' please: New York Times does epic job of dissin' March For Life (updated)

It has become a media criticism tradition, one that dates back to ink-on-paper days before the Internet.

Every year, there is a giant March For Life in Washington, D.C., (and similar marches elsewhere) on or close to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, often under weather conditions that are challenging at best. Rare is the year in which the march is not the largest demonstration of any kind in the nation's capital and it is often two, three or four times larger than any other.

Every year, the mainstream news media all but ignore the event or find some other way to offer coverage that is shaped by a kind of collective journalistic shudder. Remember this classic M.Z. Hemingway GetReligion post about the CBS News slideshow of the march that only included photos of the few pro-abortion-rights demonstrators?

This year's throng was much smaller than normal because of the looming threat of Jonas, the blizzard that began rolling into Beltway land right as the march began. How naive was I? I thought that would be a valid news angle for coverage. How many thousands would manage to show up, with charter bus cancellations and other mass-transportation issues affecting travel?

As always, there is online video -- follow the #CoverTheMarch hashtag to -- allowing those who are willing to look at the march and judge the numbers for themselves (see the YouTube at the top of this post). As is now the norm, this crowd estimate issue is way too hot for Washington, D.C., police to handle.

However, I don't think anyone expected the headline printed atop the brief March For Life 2016 story that appeared in The New York Times winter storm roundup. The obvious question, since the Times has a massive Washington, D.C., bureau: Was the reporter who wrote this actually at the march? That now-legendary headline:

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Frame game returns: Yes, yet another blast of biased language on abortion and politics

Frame game returns: Yes, yet another blast of biased language on abortion and politics

This past week, on the day of the annual March For Life, I wrote a post that raised a few questions about how The Washington Post team framed debate about the GOP retreat (surprise, surprise) on a bill that would have protected unborn children after the 20th week of a pregnancy, right on the front door of viability if born prematurely.

Yes, I just used that wording again, to help underline the obvious.

... You saw how I described that bill -- using the word "protect." It would even be possible to frame this issue by stating that the bill would have "expanded" legal "protection" for the unborn.
That is loaded language and I know that. It's the kind of language that, say, Pope Francis uses in speeches that draw minimal coverage. But that is the language used on one side of the abortion debate. ...
Now, what would the framing language sound like on the opposite side of this debate?

That post was noted and, for the most part applauded, by the online site for the National Right to Life News -- which wasn't so sure that words such as "protect" and "expanded" were, as I put it, "loaded."

Yes, that is loaded language, in mainstream media. Thus, let me note that my point was not that I wanted mainstream reporters to replace biased pro-abortion-rights language with language that favored those who oppose  abortion and/or favor expanded restrictions on late-term abortions. No, I wanted journalists to stop and think about the language that they were using and to think strategically about how they could frame this issue in a way that was accurate, fair and balanced for believers on both sides of this hot-button issue.

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Debate at NYTimes: Was the March For Life news or not?

One of the most difficult concepts in journalism to communicate to people outside the field can be stated in this deceptively simple question: What is news? Or try this wording on for size: Why do some events receive major coverage and others no coverage at all? Obviously the worldviews of the editors making the call play a role, but so do factors that are hard to explain. For example, are we talking about an event that takes place on a day when there are lots of other stories competing for space, time and resources? A quirky story that takes place on a day when there is very little else going on has a much better chance of ending up on A1 than the same story if it happens the day after an election or the day after a major weather event, and so forth and so on.

Long ago, I received a nasty letter from a reader who wanted to know why it was not news when her evangelical megachurch built a large new family life center, but it was news when a tiny downtown Episcopal parish decided to do a bit of remodeling that involved changing a window. Well, I explained, megachurches build new buildings all the time. The Episcopal parish project was symbolic because it involved making changes in the city’s oldest church. This was literally an historic site and, yes, the window was the original window in that part of the building.

Now, if the megachurch project had led to a battle over zoning laws, it might have been a news story, I explained.

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Concerning that Milbank column and the WPost news report

First of all, to those who have written or tweeted on this: Yes, your GetReligionistas saw the Dana Milbank column in The Washington Post, the one in which he goes all Pat Robertson on the March For Life faithful. You know, like this: James Dobson’s Focus on the Family asked Christians to pray for rain to fall on Barack Obama in 2008 when he accepted the presidential nomination. Various religious conservatives have said that hurricanes, earthquakes and other meteorological phenomena were divine punishment of wayward humans.

So what are we to make of Wednesday’s March for Life on the Mall in Washington? The temperature was 12 degrees at the start of the annual antiabortion event, the wind chill below zero, and participants were trudging about in snow and ice from the previous day’s storm. …

(If) there are weather gods, they may have been making a pointed comment about a movement that has become frozen in time.

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Is pro-life state of the union homily a story? In Francis era?

As I type this with my cold fingers (starting at about 12:30 p.m.), the sun is out here in Washington, D.C., but the temperature is still a frosty 14 degrees. Suffice it to say it has been a cold morning after a night of wild weather here in Beltway land. My office in the District’s Northeast quadrant is only about a 10 minute walk from the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, because I’ve been in class all morning, I have no idea how many people were able to make it into the city for the annual March For Life. I imagine that the crowd is smaller than the usual 300,000 or so, in part because the throngs were much smaller than normal last night and early this morning in Union Station (through which I commute).

There will be the usual, and valid, debates about whether the mainstream media did an adequate job of covering the march. If the march was smaller than normal, will that be seen as a fact of the weather or the political climate? Inquiring minds will want to know.

I do know, however, that there was a major story in Washington last night linked to this event. At least, the pre-march Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception should have been a big story for the mainstream press if reporters and editors are serious about the effect of Pope Francis on the pro-life movement and, specifically, how the Catholic Church expresses its teachings about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

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