Hyping Class, Ignoring Controversial Business

Loss of human life is a tragedy.

Media outlets rightly treated the recent Montana plane crash that killed seven adults and seven children as such.

But correctly reporting the deaths of fourteen people as a tragedy doesn't mean the media necessarily did their job. If they feel compelled to note that victims were “ultrarich,” they should also note the business that made them that way. Particularly if it's as controversial as abortion.

As pointed out by Tom Blumer in a March 24 Newsbusters post, Associated Press reporters were compelled to report on the victim's socioeconomic status. The AP's Matthew Brown wrote on March 23, “Three California families headed to a retreat for the ultrarich were among the 14 victims of a plane crash in Montana.” Later that same day, the AP's Matt Gouras and Joan Lowy referred to the intended destination as “the ritzy Yellowstone Club resort.”

Brown and Gouras wrote in a third article on March 23, “Dr. Irving “Bud” Feldkamp [father of two of the adult victims and grandfather to five of the children who perished] was at the entrance of the ultra-exclusive resort where he planned to spend the week skiing with his children and grandchildren when he got the call from his nephew.” They referred to the resort as a “millionaires-only resort” later in the same article.

So the family was wealthy. That doesn't make the story any more or less heartbreaking, as all loss of human life is a tragedy.

And yet, though the AP deemed it necessary to include facts about family's economic status, they failed to think it necessary to include that Feldkemp made the money for this exclusive vacation  was paid for partly through abortion.

Feldkamp is listed as the president of Family Planning Associates Medical Group, Inc., a health care organization that is California's largest for-profit abortion provider. Its Web site lists 17 different abortion clinics throughout the state, and  the group provides abortions up to the 22nd week of pregnancy. 

Gingi Edmonds, a pro-life activist, reported this on March 24. Yet as of April 2, the mainstream media appeared to have whitewashed Feldkamp's abortion connection.

Brown and Gouras simply noted Feldkamp is  “a dentist and president of Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California.” The Los Angeles Times stated on March 23 Feldkamp “owns a string of dental offices in Redlands, [California].”  Jesse B. Gill of the Contra Costa Times referred to him on March 23 as a “prominent local businessman” who “runs a San Bernardino dental practice and serves as president of Glen Haven Raceway.” Gill also included that the vacation destination was “the Yellowstone Club, a millionaires-only resort.” A March 24 Wall Street Journal article only said Feldkamp was “a dentist and businessman.”

Broadcast and cables networks offered even less information on Feldkamp than the print media did. Only NBC's Leanne Gregg noted his profession as a “prominent California dentist” on March 24. The others simply avoided giving background information on Feldkamp.

Again, the loss of human life is a tragedy. But if the media is going to include inconsequential details about victims' socioeconomic status, they should also provide more background on how they reached that status.

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.