Saturday, January 19, 2019

Stop Whining About Media Coverage of the March for Life

The 2019 March for Life has only been over for a day and already Catholics are engaged in the annual mantra of whining about how the media "ignores" the event. Tens of thousands of Washington selfies are being plastered across social media platforms with comments like "The media isn't reporting this!" Various Pro-Life sites are running an article titled "All Three Networks Ignore March for Life." Et cetera, et cetera.

It was probably three or four years ago that I started noticing the way Catholics just repeated this like a mantra. They get back from the March, post pics of the swelling crowds, and say something like, "Too bad the media doesn't cover this" or something similar. In fact, it was being so oft repeated that I started thinking, "This must be false," so I started following media coverage of the March. This is my third year tracking the media coverage, and I want to tell you Catholics who are repeating this, please stop. The main stream media does not ignore the March for Life. It is covered pretty consistently every year.

As of today, here are the major news outlets that have done stories about the 2019 March for Life:

USA Today
The Washington Post
FOX News
Associated Press
NBC Affiliate (example)
CBS News
CBS Chicago
Now This News (livestream)
Huffington Post
The Washington Times
New York Times (this one even shows nuns marching)
TIME Magazine

If these don't count as "main stream media", then I don't know what does. It is clearly untrue that all the major networks "ignored" the March for Life. As far as I can tell, MSNBC is the only network that had no mention of the march, although NBC and other NBC affiliates did.

All of these organizations covered the March from different angles: Some focused on the issue of abortion itself, while others zeroed in on the comments of Vice-President Pence; some networks wanted to contrast the March for Life with the Women's March, while others were more interested in exploring Trump's relationship with the Pro-Life movement. Some were merely giving directions and noting which streets were closed; still others were complaining about Ben Shapiro's comments or the Kentucky teens in the MAGA hats who disrespected some Native American elder. The sorts of coverage varied, but there was certainly coverage. It's patently false to say all the major networks "ignore" the March for Life.

The organizers of the March for Life itself seem to be cognizant of the perpetuation of this myth, because on their website they have a page dedicated to chronicling media coverage of the March. This seemed to be unique to 2017 because that was the first March during the Trump administration, but nevertheless we can see there was ample media coverage. The March media page from 2017 states:
The following outlets covered the March for Life (this is not an exhaustive list):
EWTN, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, Washington Post, New York Times, AP, LA Times, BBC, USA Today, Fortune, The Economist, Politico, Business Insider, Roll Call, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Real Clear Politics, US News and World Report, The Hill, McLatchy, Yahoo, People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Vox, Slate, Buzzfeed, Aljazeera, National Review, the Federalist, IJ Review, Washington Times, Newsmax, Daily Caller, Washington Examiner, Townhall, The Blaze, American Spectator, Lifezette, First Things. 

But all that coverage did not stop people from complaining about the March being "ignored" in 2017 too, nor in any of the other years. It's just become some thing that people repeat every year without even bothering to verify or think.

Now, I can grant that you might not have liked the type of coverage these media outlets provided. You might think their coverage was too brief, that they focused on the wrong aspects of the March, that the coverage portrays the Pro-Life movement negatively, that it focuses too much on novelties rather than on the Pro-Life message itself. Fine. Complain all you want about the nature of the media coverage, but stop perpetuating the falsehood that the march is "ignored" or that no media outlets cover it.

I was actually talking to a Catholic acquaintance about this who works for an NBC affiliate. People were telling him that they were dismayed by the lack of media coverage of the March. He, like me, noted first that it's simply not true. But second, he explained why he thought the March was not getting the right kind of coverage and suggested what Pro-Lifers should do it they want to garner more attention for the March. I have reposted his comments with permission:

To those Catholics who are dismayed at the "lack of coverage" of the March for Life this year, I want to offer a few thoughts. For may have heard how there was absolutely no coverage from the major networks. I want to tell you that's not true. I work for an NBC affiliate, and I can tell you for a fact, the network dedicated two live feeds to it with its own resources, not relying on the local affiliate on the ground. I saw the March on several videos that were offered that day to use in newscasts.
That said... I know it's not as much coverage as you would have liked. And I can weigh in on that. You guys have a serious problem when it comes to understanding how the media works. Take this quote for example, Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review noted at the time that "the March for Life actually deserves more coverage than either of the other marches because it is a recurring event and grows every year." your problem! It's like you guys are in World War I being led by a bunch of old cavalry generals who don't understand how this thing works. The very thing you are doing which you think should earn you more results, is the exact reason why you are getting less!!! And instead of addressing the real issue, you just throw greater numbers thinking that will solve it...not unlike a WWI general who thinks his charge will work this time. 
The fact it's a recurring event is the very reason why it gets downplayed. I'm not saying this methodology is right or wrong, but I know the media tends to be more interested in things which have novelty (something liberals are more prone to be good at). When it becomes the "same old, same old" ritual every year...the media gradually loses interest until it only gives it a footnote. Even this year I see they are giving the Women's March far less coverage than years past because it's becoming more of a yearly ritual. The March for Life really needs a PR shakeup. If you want massive coverage, I can tell you it's rather easy. If you did an unannounced demonstration on a random day that shuts down traffic in a mid-size city that's not Washington, I guarantee the networks would go wild. The problem is...that's not something conservatives are prone to do.

This is something I've been pondering for awhile; the March for Life is simply old news. It's not a novelty anymore. It gets an obligatory mention, a footnote, but that's about it. I think this gentleman's suggestion to do "an unannounced demonstration on a random day that shuts down traffic in a mid-size city that's not Washington" is pretty much what Pro-Lifers ought to be thinking about. But, as he notes, "that's not something conservatives are prone to do." Indeed.

So some of you are probably asking why I am harping about this? "Gosh, Boniface, it's like you're on the side of the main stream media or something.. These people went to march against abortion. Stop ragging on them" Pfft. Don't be silly. God bless them for marching, and I'm certainly not on the side of the media. The main stream media sucks, but the reason I am talking about this is because it is counterproductive; it ultimately hurts the Pro-Life cause when Catholics ignorantly repeat false hearsay as fact.

And on a personal level, it drives me crazy because when some college kid comes back from the March and goes on Facebook and posts selfies of himself in D.C. and snorts, "Heh...too bad the networks ignored the March," well, I am fairly certain that kid has not bothered to do any research to see if what he is saying is true; did he take the time to investigate the coverage of each network and media outlet? Almost assuredly not. He's simply repeating some mantra Catholics have got in their head that it's cool to say every year.

If you want to complain about the media coverage, do something to make it more media attractive. You can't do the exact same event in the exact same place on the exact same weekend for 46 years and expect it to be this huge media phenomenon. Do something different; be innovative. Engage in critical discussion about the type of media coverage of the march, why it is so, and how it can be changed, but stop repeating the falsehood that the March for Life is "ignored." I've been following this for years now and it's never been the case. You discredit us when you say this so please stop.

Rant over. God bless you all.


Bob said...

Your collection of this data is commendable. Most people would not go to such trouble to do their own research.

However, one feature of your analysis of this data leaves me mystified. On the one hand you assert that the March for Life is NOT being ignored. On the other, you explain that the March leadership’s lack of media savvy is the reason why the March IS being ignored.

How can one reconcile these?

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob. So it’s clear the March is not being ignored, in the sense that the networks are certainly mentioning it and allocating time to covering it. This is indisputable and this is why I don’t agree with people complaining about the media “ignoring” it.

However, it’s also clear that many of the stories about the March have the nature of mere footnotes, or of noting just the novel things about the March, and I think this is also something that Pro-Lifers are getting at when they say the March is “ignored.”

So while the March is not ignored, there is a legitimate question about the quality and depth of the coverage. I think this could be altered if the nature of the March itself were altered to be more of a novelty.


TLM said...

I agree. It's not the way 'news coverage' works. It's not something sensational anymore. A peaceful march! No destroyed property, no disrupting (and even putting in danger) peoples lives by blocking main highways, no violence. How painfully boring. Who wants to hear about that? Well, at least I guess we have the CovCatholic kids controversy that's come out of it. Something the media could jump on and at the same time totally look like idiots for not checking it out thoroughly. So yep, there was coverage!

c matt said...

The Women's March got more coverage only because there was something novel about it - the anti-semitic angle, and its vastly reduced numbers. Not exactly the coverage they were hoping for, I bet. On the other hand, the Covington Boys coverage actually helped - it really showed how biased and deranged most journalists and celebrities (and some Bishops) are, and how very calm and collected the Covington student was.

Something new and novel? Not really my thing, so no real suggestions. How about surrounding Cuomo's house with a bunch of protesters holding aborted baby pictures in silence? Make him walk a phalanx of the pictures of what he has wrought? That would get coverage.

rohrbachs said...

Marchers should be visiting their Congress people 'that's where the finish line is, not scotus.