By Laura Echevarria, NRLC Director of Communications and Press Secretary
Editor’s note. This appeared in the August digital edition of National Right to Life News. I’m hoping that you are reading the entire issue and passing its contents along to family and friends.
Today’s news media has a major problem: much of the public distrusts them. Over the last few years, this distrust has grown significantly.
As the Knight Foundation gently put it, “A new report from Gallup and the Knight Foundation finds a widening gap between what Americans expect from the news media and what they think they are getting.”
According to the poll, a whopping 86 % believe there is either “a great deal” (49%) of political bias or “a fair amount” (37%) in news coverage.
When it comes to political division in this country, a total of 84% of Americans say the media bears either “a great deal” (48%) of responsibility or “a moderate amount” (36%). That is a shocking indictment.
In the pro-life movement, we see this absence of objectivity time and time again as reporters write and produce stories on issues such as abortion or rationing of health care. A recent example is a CBS reporter who repeatedly has interviewed leaders of pro-abortion groups and presented them—and the organizations they represent—as advocates to be admired.
Last week, after the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit vacated a lower court decision that enjoined four pro-life laws passed by the Arkansas legislature, she expressed her frustrations in a series of posts on Twitter (emphasis mine):
An abortion ban in Arkansas will be allowed to be implemented thanks to a federal appeals’ court ruling that reverses a lower court’s decision to temporarily block the ban. Here’s why that’s such a big deal…
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals bases nearly its entire decision on the recent SCOTUS ruling on abortion. But, wait, you say, wasn’t that a win for abortion-rights advocates? No!!!!!!
[Chief Justice John]Roberts did NOT join the liberal bloc wholesale. He concurred, writing a very carefully crafted opinion recognizing that the Louisiana law in question was blatantly unconstitutional because of the court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Women’s Health.
But from there, he raised major questions about “undue burden” and whether it was the court’s place to weigh in on the issue. From Roberts: “Pretending that we could pull that off would require us to act as legislators, not judges.”
Roberts suggests that the “undue burden” standard ONLY requires abortion regs to not place a “substantial burden, not whether benefits outweighed burdens.” And here’s where it gets crazy: Roberts wrote his own opinion, but because its [sic] with the majority it’s controlling!
Using that opinion, the 8th Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision to block series of ‘17 Ark. Abortion restrictions. It’s significant to me that a federal court is using what was painted as a win for abortion rights groups to allow abortion restrictions to be implemented…
Earlier tweets from this reporter refer to pro-life pregnancy centers as “anti-abortion ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’” She quoted a pro-abortion activist who quite crudely criticized Chief Justice Roberts and set up the quoted tweet by saying, “This is exactly what to make of Roberts opinion in June Medical” [the June 27th decision in which the Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital].
She added “Aren’t they wonderful” pieces on pro-abortion groups advocating for abortion in Colorado and Alabama. She also promoted a panel discussion on “reproductive rights” in New York, writing:
Happening NOW NY AG Letitia James hosting a panel on reproductive rights with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, @ReproRights’s Nancy Northup, @NIRHAction’s Andrea Miller, Planned Parenthood’s @alexismcgill & Robin Chappelle Golston
Reporters who report on the abortion issue, which is part of this reporter’s “beat,” should not be posting personal observations on her or his Twitter feed where the reporter self-identifies as being a reporter for the network. This is one major reason the public distrusts reporters—they no longer report, they advocate.
In their book, The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach who is the chairman for the Committee of Concerned Journalists, and Tom Rosenstiel, who is director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, say the purpose of journalism: “is not defined by technology, nor by journalists or the techniques they employ.” Instead, “the principles and purpose of journalism are defined by something more basic: the function news plays in the lives of people.”
In fact, the American Press Institute notes, “Journalists who select sources to express what is really their own point of view, and then use the neutral voice to make it seem objective, are engaged in a form of deception. This damages the credibility of the craft by making it seem unprincipled, dishonest, and biased.” [Emphasis added.]
The pro-life movement has always known that journalists come to the abortion issue with a deeply engrained pro-abortion bias. The “unprincipled, dishonest, and biased” reporting of many widely recognized reporters has certainly colored the industry and the public has caught on.
Whether the industry can redeem itself is something that remains to be seen.