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This guest post examining the media dynamics behind today’s March for Life was written by City Paper intern Ryan Reilly.
Even before the 2009 March for Life kicked off today on the National Mall, pro-lifers were complaining—-to the Washington Times, no less—-that the media was not giving them a fair shake. The complaints are pretty much garden variety press gripes: stories too limited in scope; participants not afforded the full, sympathetic profile treatment; items pushed to the back pages or not published at all. Here’s why pro-lifers will have even less clippings to scrapbook after this year’s coverage:
The inauguration. While the crowd may be large, it’s a footnote in comparison to the massive sea of humanity that flooded the mall on Tuesday. Plus, people are expecting pro-lifers to show up. They’re like the fat guy who scarfs down 28 wieners at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every year—-sure it’s impressive, but look at that tiny lady who ate 59 in her first event!
It’s a thankless assignment. No matter what you write on a subject like abortion, not everybody it going to love you for it. You’re lucky if you get the framing right. Follow AP Style and go the “pro-abortion rights” and “anti-abortion” route and you’ll be on the receiving end of a flood of e-mails from pro-lifers alleging they know where your sympathies lie. That the media is bias against their position is probably one of the only issues on which both sides agree.
“Once in a yeartime” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Roe v. Wade will be still be around next January, and the marchers will too. While Obama may be for abortion rights, he’s not in favor of political suicide, and that ruling is not going anywhere anytime soon. Unless something completely unforseeable happens, we’ll be in the same situation next year.
Can’t quote a fetus. Journalists love the “voice to the voiceless” angle that pro-lifers advance, but they can’t speak to the unborn, even on deep background.
It’s an off year. Thirty-six doesn’t end with a five or a zero. Sorry, no reflective what does this mean for our country pieces.
Nothing newsworthy happens. Marches and protests, no matter what the cause, are pre-scheduled events intended to attract media attention, and journalists are mindful of that fact. These are pro-lifers, so don’t expect any violence to write home about.