By Dave Andrusko
The Washington Post describes Behind the Story as “a series where we show how we report and produce our journalism.” For today’s story—“Behind the Story: How we decide which abortion bills to cover” —Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn interviews Caroline Kitchener, “a national politics reporter covering abortion for The Washington Post, about how she determines which bills to cover and pay attention to.”
What do we learn? Here are three nuggets. Here’s the most important.
#1. Vongkiatkajorn says “There’s a lot of antiabortion legislation being proposed right now. How do you decide what to cover or not cover when it comes to these bills?”
Caroline: It was a little easier at the beginning of the session — certain things move really quickly. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban was the first one to move through both houses, so it was pretty clear what we should be covering. Now, it’s like every single day there is a different state passing a different ban. It’s impossible to cover all of that and every step in every state.
It DOES seem like there is a tidal wave of pro-life legislation and, by the way, that’s true. Hats off and congratulations to our state affiliates and to NRLC’s Department of State Legislation. If Kitchener has questions, she can always contact our Department of State Legislation which is on top of state legislation.
#2. Vongkiatkajorn asks a very interesting question.”You recently decided not to cover some language in a bill that was being proposed, even though there was a lot of media attention about it. Can you tell me about why you didn’t cover it?”
The long and the short of it is that a proposal out of Missouri was misconstrued (badly so) and went viral. To her eternal credit Kitchener directly contacted the legislator.
We decided not to cover that for a couple of reasons. I called the legislator who proposed it, and he basically retracted the entire bill. He said to me, “That’s actually not the intention; it’s being misconstrued.” So he was sending his bill back to drafting to get it corrected and clarified. I ended up just tweeting about what he said and trying to correct the record.
Her explanation is he “basically retracted the entire bill.” A better explanation was the bill was written in a manner that opened the door to a malicious pro-abortion caricature. The legislator corrected that. And
#3. Vongkiatkajorn asks, “I want to talk about your reporting on abortion access in different states. I know you spent time in Texas after it passed a law banning most abortions around six weeks, making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. You’ve talked to people who oppose abortion access, as well as those who support it. How do you balance which voices you want to cover or feature?”
This is a very important question. Kitchener’s response is
You absolutely need to have both sides of this argument in every story and different stories will highlight those in different ways. When I look back on my body of work for a year, I want to make sure that I have a really healthy balance of stories that really center the voices of clinics, patients who are seeking abortions and abortion rights advocates who are fighting so hard for these rights, and also, the antiabortion legislators and the various antiabortion groups that have devoted their entire lives to trying to make abortion illegal. When I look back on all the stories I do, I want there to be a mix.
Talk about framing the question. Have antiabortion legislators and the various antiabortion groups” really “devoted their entire lives to trying to make abortion illegal”? I haven’t, and I—like many of you—have been involved for 40+ years. We seek out win-win solutions for mother and unborn child which is the absolutely last thing that would cross Planned Parenthood’s corporate mind.
The entire interview is very much worth reading.