Networks: All Quiet on the Gosnell Front

Superman, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and internet cat memes featured. Murder trial ignored.

Well that didn’t last long. In fact, it barely happened at all. After a month of ignoring the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist accused of murdering one woman and seven infants, it looked like the media had been shamed into covering the story. 

Barely. Even after the most gruesome detail in a trial full of them came out – a baby who survived an abortion “swimming” in a toilet and “trying to get out” – the silence resumed. In fact, the only major news outlet that bothered to report on that testimony was The Chicago Tribune. mentioned it, it got no air time. 

The Gosnell trial has returned to the obscurity the pro-abortion media hoped all along to preserve. 

What coverage there was started on Thursday April 11 when The Washington Post discovered the story (though the Post mainly engaged in media navel-gazing over the lack of coverage, and allowed its executive editor to claim he’d never heard of the trial). CNN began covering it on Friday, April 12, and CBS gave it play on “This Morning” the following Monday. And on Wednesday, April 17, Savannah Guthrie included a question about the case in a long, wide-ranging interview with President Obama. 

There endeth the coverage. ABC has never once mentioned Gosnell. CBS hasn’t followed up, and NBC has yet to do any reporting on the story. Yes, the Post is covering it, but in the most antiseptic of ways. On Sunday, April 21, it published a piece titled, “Problems at Pa. abortion clinic point to lack of facilities oversight.” 

The article stated that “The catalogue of horrors delineated by prosecutors has raised questions about whether there is adequate inspection and regulation of the 1,800 facilities nationwide that provide abortions.” It quoted no testimony from the trial but contained this howler: “The case has captivated and repulsed a nation where back-alley abortion clinics have become a rarity since 1973.” It’s hard to see how a story that’s gone unreported by all but a few reluctant outlets has captivated anyone. 

And as CMI reported from the trial, only 12-15 reporters were covering the court case last week, and another report had The New York Times pulling its reporter shortly after assigning him to the trial. 

Granted, the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, April 15, took over the news cycle for the week, and it was followed by the explosion in Waco, Tex., and then the killing of one Boston suspect and the manhunt for another. Also, gun control legislation came up for a vote in the senate. The networks and the larger media rightfully gave those stories careful attention. 

But certainly one of the three networks could find time for a trial update on a morning or evening news show sometime during the week? Not with all the other important news the nets were covering. 

“It's impossible to think of Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's,’ without thinking of ‘Holly Golightly.’” said Diane Sawyer on Wednesday, April 17. Sawyer went on to tell viewers that the character’s name in the original manuscript was “Connie Gustafson.” “So we can all wonder, would Connie ever have been as magical?” We can wonder. It’ll help us not to think about Gosnell’s decapitated babies. The next evening, Sawyer spent 32 seconds on the 75th birthday of Superman. 

On the April 15 “Today,” NBC anchor introduced this important segment: “Well, Bill and Giuliana Rancic are adding to their already very busy schedules. The couple is now co-hosting NBC`s new dating competition ‘Ready for Love.’ And from the looks of things, they certainly know how to have fun with it.” 

On April 18, “Today” included an interview with Motown great Smokey Robinson and a segment on “affordable family travel getaways.” On April 18, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams mentioned the 87-yr-old actor Dick Van Dyke is suffering from a strange neurological condition in which his head throbs when he lays down. Van Dyke went to Twitter to ask for help and network newsies just couldn’t resist. 

Also on April 18, CBS “This Morning” featured an interview with John Densmore, drummer of the 60s rock band The Doors, about the legacy of long-dead singer Jim Morrison. On the 17th, “This Morning” found footage of the mayor of Toronto mistakenly bumping into a reporter’s TV camera worth broadcasting. 

The network morning shows on Sunday, April 21 were a showcase of hard-hitting journalism. “Good Morning America” warned that beer prices are going up, and examined the crash of the cupcake craze. CBS viewers learned how great it is to be able to afford living in a Chicago high-rise, and saw a fascinating story about Alan Alda teaching acting to scientists. And “Today” closed its broadcast with a segment on why the Internet loves cats. 

With the Boston bombing, gun control and the Texas explosion, the networks had to cover a lot of real, hard news in the past week. But surely they could have squeezed in a few seconds of the Gosnell trial among the cupcakes, Holly Golightly and Canadian political slapstick?