Faithful Readers here have likely noticed that I tend to be inordinately focused on news stories wherein the media either does, or does not, do the job it exists to do.
Two articles --one, a rather straightforward bombshell story by USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers; the other, an oddly acrobatic piece in the guise of a "guide to the controversy" by Daily Beast writer Josh Dzieza-- certainly deal with my aforementioned obsession.
Both are important stories I'd urge you to read. Both will be, I warn you, horrific. On a multitude of levels.
— Earl Merkel
A comment from Faithful Reader Elle (via Facebook) : "Horrific?" Not horrific enough. I think Gosnell was a serial killer. Baby feet in the a jar? Fetuses in the fridge? C'mon...either those were trophies or the man couldn't dispose of the the bodies of the fetuses in the usual way, knowing it would raise suspicion.
Beyond his obvious guilt, The Daily Beast article has the right of it: it's a political wind that blows nobody any good. Neither pro-choicers nor pro-lifers stand to gain from any in-depth coverage of this story.
EM Response: Your "political wind" observation may well be dead-on, Elle. Certainly, it highlights my concerns here, regarding (and limited to) the news media.
At times speciously --and almost always, with no small degree of arrogance-- newsies once boasted when "both" sides in a controversy were enraged with 'em; the oft-toasted phrase was "Well, we must be doin' it RIGHT!"
While not always accurate, the phrase at least signaled an anarchic loyalty to a code where neither ideology nor popularity was the paramount impetus in what has today oft become an oxymoron: "news judgement."
But I'd contest applying the Daily Beast article to having "the right of it," overall. I'm particularly troubled when the so-called "guide to the controversy" leaches into commentary... like this:
"There are plenty of possible reasons the story hadn’t made the leap from local to front-page national news until now. First of all, every detail of the story is ghastly. I had to force myself to read the report; I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to read about baby feet found in jars. Compare that to the Sandra Fluke conflagration, or the Susan G. Komen scandal—much easier to devote airtime talking about, because the underlying events aren’t graphically appalling. Pictures of dead fetuses are the stuff of abortion-clinic protest signs for a reason: they make people uncomfortable."
[EM note: While in j-school and on-the-job, I missed the memo that "news should comfort people."]
"That Gosnell seems like something ripped from one of those signs could also be a reason his story never took off. Slate’s David Weigel acknowledges that journalists tend to be socially liberal and that “horror stories of abortionists are less likely to permeate that bubble than, say, a story about a right-wing pundit attacking an abortionist who then claims to have gotten death threats.”
[EM note: Oh-- okay then. Long as we're true to our ideology, all's well here... uh, WHA'DAFUDGE???]
"But another possible reason could be that, as awful as the case is, it’s not clear that there’s anything controversial about it."
[EM note: Wait one, while I find the jaw I just dropped. Ah-- here it is. Let's continue...]
"When Trayvon Martin (to use the standard comparison) went from local to national story, it was partly because there was a debate over stand-your-ground laws and whether his killing constituted murder or self defense. There’s no such dispute here. The question isn’t whether what Gosnell is accused of doing should be illegal: he’s on trial because it clearly is. Gosnell could become a useful pro-life bogeyman, but it’s not clear what policies the antiabortion movement would use his case to push for..."
[EM note: when journalists start worrying about the motivations and goals of a movement --ANY movement-- and start selecting "the news that's fit to print" thereon... well, we're likely doomed as a free society, no?] — Earl Merkel
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