Media malpractice at
Pilgrimage, A Journey of Rediscovery:
Tradition: The Latin Mass with Gregorian Choir
On Thursday morning, Jan. 22, I met with our six-camera crew at the Hyatt Hotel in Washington and went over the day's objectives.
We had come to town to shoot a documentary called "Thine Eyes" (See ThineEyes.org), the first-ever high-end production centering on the annual March For Life.
We were commissioned to create this video to set the media record straight. Although I had not attended the March before, I knew enough about the way the media worked to suspect that a little straightening was in order.
The media did not disappoint. Their coverage confirmed my most paranoid suspicions and shocked even the apolitical among our crew.
Energized by Obama's promise to expand the abortion franchise, pro-life activists flooded into D.C. from all over Canada and America. To capture some sliver of this movement, we had put camera crews on busses out of Kansas, Missouri and Alabama.
By noon of the 22nd the marchers had gathered on the Mall, as impressively colorful, diverse and good-spirited a gathering as I have ever seen, perhaps three-quarters of them under 25.
I am told it was the best-attended march ever. The crowd was massive, and I found myself right in the middle of it, a literally overwhelming experience, alleviated by the company of the actress Jennifer O'Neill, our on-camera narrator.
So large was the crowd, in fact, that it took us an hour of shuffling – The Shuffle for Life? – before we actually hit the street and begin the long walk up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building, just east of the Capitol.
To get an accurate count of the participants, we put one camera on a rooftop en route. I would estimate about 300,000 marchers. To see for yourself, watch this video:
In search of some impromptu drama, I instructed the crew to shoot and, if possible, interview all pro-abortion counter-protesters they could find.
Based on the media reports of past marches, I had expected to see these people lining the street, especially since so many abortion supporters had attended the inaugural two days prior.
I saw none. At day's end, I conferred with the crew, and they, too, had seen none. I was disappointed. I had hoped to capture a little conflict on camera.
Somehow, however, the USA Today photographers managed to find all the pro-aborts they needed. Page 3 of its Jan. 23 edition features a fair-sized article on the March.
The article has two photos. One shows the front line of the March. Other than the reduction of hundreds of thousands to "thousands" in the caption, the photo and caption are unobjectionable.
The second photo, however, undoes the seeming neutrality of the first. It features two women holding large signs. One reads "My Body My Choice." The second reads "Keep Abortion Legal." A small "We Choose Life" sign can be seen in the background.
Captioned "Two sides of issues: Abortion rights supporters and opponents mix outside the Supreme Court on Thursday," the photo deceives the reader twice over.
For one, it leads the reader to believe that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of abortion supporters in attendance. For another, it creates the impression, altogether false, of USA Today's "journalistic balance."
Given the shadows and the lighting, the photo appears to be legitimate. But there could not have been more than a pathetic handful of such protesters. We saw none, and we were looking.
To its humble credit, USA Today at least covered the March. The New York Times could not be bothered. Neither the size of the crowd nor the radical shift in abortion policy stirred the Times to give the March the slightest mention in its print edition.
To be fair, the Times does mention the March in its online edition, but only in the fifth paragraph of a posting on a political blog, headlined, "On 36th Anniversary, Obama Praises Roe v. Wade Precedent."
Curiously, when TimesWatch posted the Times article, the headline read, "On 35th Anniversary, Obama Praises Roe v. Wade Precedent." The body copy repeats the "35th anniversary" miscue. 35? 36? No big deal. After all, from the Times' perspective, abortion is not a serious issue like, say, the admission of rich ladies to Augusta National.
Disinformation has its consequences. On the Sunday after the March, my sister and I attended Mass at the church of our youth, St. Rose of Lima in Newark, N.J.
Other than the priest, we were the only white people at Mass. It was "Fifth Grade Sunday." The fifth graders from the adjoining school all attended in their Sunday best.
Several of them read, all of them impressively. The school still does wonderful work as it did for me and my siblings back in the day.
During the sermon, the priest reminded the kids of the extraordinary week just past: Martin Luther King Day, the inauguration of a black president, and "one other anniversary." He asked the kids if they knew which one.
The kids could not be faulted for failing to volunteer "Roe v. Wade." Nor could their parents. The New York media have conspired to keep them in the dark.
The priest had no such excuse. The anniversary that excited him was the 50th of the Vatican Council. Living in the past, he regaled the kids with stories of the civil rights marches of his youth and, in so doing, let one perfect "teachable moment" elude him.
"The civil rights movement is not over, kids, it has just begun," the priest might have said. "Don't celebrate Barack Obama because he looks like you. Pray for his soul because he does not know what you know, namely that life is a more fundamental right even than liberty."
Maybe next year.
Editor's Message: This postscript was written a day after publication of the above column.
As of January 30, 2009 (Friday) NBC television has rejected a pro-life advertisement which Catholicvote.org bought for a slot in the Super Bowl because the ad contains a pro-life message. The 30-second ad features ultrasound pictures from a baby in its mother’s womb. There is nothing either graphic or political and the word abortion is not even used. In fact, no words are spoken, only graphics that appear on-screen. Yet, the message is extremely powerful. View the ad here: