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The challenges of working with a “woke” press corps

by | May 17, 2021

By Laura Echevarria, Communications Director and Press Secretary 

The National Right to Life Committee and its affiliates spend hundreds and hundreds of hours spreading the unvarnished truth about the right to life and the mounting number of threats to the most vulnerable among us. The most obvious place where we can get our message out is through the traditional news media. 

While this may sound simple, it is not.  Let me explain why.

The “mainstream media” of 2021 differs in some respects from the media industry of just 20 years ago. What used to frustrate our communications’ department —an abysmal lack of coverage, a fundamental misunderstanding pro-life values, and a conscious willingness to accept the “facts” from the pro-abortion side—is the same. But in today’s world of an ever-present social media that pushes an individual’s “truth” as a virtue, the line between reporting the facts and the advocacy of opinions has thinned almost to the point of vanishing. 

In a recent article in the Washington Examiner, author Ira Stoll took a look at the internal destruction of the New York Times as a “woke” staff now drives not only the editorial slant of the Times but also the news slant of the Times. 

In a “woke” world, what you see in newspapers and television news is coverage actively promoting politically correct reporting. Here writing what is acceptable is far more important than a (relatively) disinterested quest for truth. As a result, if possible, coverage is weighted even more heavily in a pro-abortion direction by staff that do not even pretend to be objective.

Stoll notes a Pew survey regarding how much trust conservative-leaning adults have in the reporting of the New York Times. He gives a sense of how things have changed: 

A Pew survey released last year found that 42% of adult Republicans or Republican-leaners distrusted the Gray Lady, a statistically significant increase from 29% in a similar Pew survey taken in 2014.

Sadly, if news outlets do not find their bearings and turn back from reporting personal opinion as “fact,” watching the ongoing ruin of the “Gray Lady” (a nickname often used to refer to the New York Times) is a harbinger of things to come. 

When I first worked at National Right to Life in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, we read the New York Times–along with four other newspapers– every morning. If the Times covered it, we could expect other media outlets to take their marching orders and quickly fall in line.

However, the difference back then was the New York Times reporter who covered congressional and legislative issues. While I am quite certain she was pro-abortion or at the least ambivalent about it, I never knew for certain. She never indicated by word or deed what she felt on the issue and she always listened to reasonable arguments for or against a piece of legislation.

She reported—she didn’t offer opinion masquerading as fact. 

Today, I often don’t have to guess. I just look at the official social media accounts of several mainstream reporters and journalists–who are supposed to report straight news and facts. There I can find posts about how Planned Parenthood does such great things or photos of these reporters attending (not covering but participating) in women’s marches featuring pro-abortion speakers. 

While reporters are entitled to their personal opinion, to post their professional position in their bio and then use that platform to promote a particular viewpoint seems both blatantly unethical and sure to color their coverage.

But, increasingly, many reporters don’t see it that way, or don’t seem to particularly care. 

Let’s back up. Is media distortion on the abortion issue a figment of pro-lifers’ imaginations? Did it start day before yesterday? Of course not.

Consider how, in 1990, Pulitzer Prize winner David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times wrote a four-part series about abortion coverage by the news media. He documented how severely skewed it was toward the pro-abortion side. 

In the first part of the series, Shaw wrote:

Most major newspapers support abortion rights on their editorial pages, and two major media studies have shown that 80% to 90% of U.S. journalists personally favor abortion rights. Moreover, some reporters participated in a big abortion rights march in Washington last year, and the American Newspaper Guild, the union that represents news and editorial employees at many major papers, has officially endorsed “freedom of choice in abortion decisions.”

So what about now? The bias is even more widespread and reporters simply employ slightly different strategies. For example, far too many reporters who agree with the pro-abortion side simply ignore the pro-life viewpoint while others employ “quote-shopping.” 

What is “quote-shopping”? A reporter will question a spokesperson in such a way as to elicit a quote that will fit into a story the reporter has basically already written based on the reporter’s preconceived view of the abortion issue.

Sadly, most reporters who engage in “advocacy reporting” are living in world where, overwhelmingly, their colleagues and friends agree with them. Working in such an insular environment, they don’t realize that they have betrayed the foundation of good journalism—to report the facts and let the reader decide for themselves.

Categories: Media Bias
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