As we gear up for another March for Life, this reflection by The New York Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, from 2014, is worth re-visiting. She took seriously complaints that the newspaper was giving short shrift to the annual march. After quoting from some readers, she did a little digging:
I asked the Washington bureau chief, Carolyn Ryan, why no staff reporter was assigned to the event. She replied:
We have given extensive coverage to opponents of abortion.
The March for Life was a main element in our front-page story Tuesday about newly energized Republicans efforts, through ballot initiatives and legislation in Congress, to curtail abortion. We ran a three-column, live staff photograph of the event at the top of a national-section page, and an online Reuters story on nytimes.com about the march, highlighting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s appearance and his projections for legislation in the House. As you know, we do not cover every protest, and tend to focus on the substance of the issue. This particular march, in part because of the weather, was smaller than in years past. Last year, which was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we did produce a lengthier staff story on the march.
My take: The Times should have covered this gathering with a staff reporter in Washington. The march may happen every year, and this one may have been smaller than usual, but it still is a major event, and there were fresh angles available, including the more inclusive approach, the large number of young people involved and the difficulties of participating in the storm. The lack of staff coverage unfortunately gives fuel to those who accuse The Times of being anti-Catholic, and to those who charge that the paper’s news coverage continually reflects a liberal bias. But more important, the event had significant news value. In Thursday’s paper, it deserved more than a photograph.
It will be interesting to see if anything changes this year, with a new administration and some new personalities (yes, Kellyanne Conway) in the mix. Stay tuned.