David Daleiden

Los Angeles Times' reborn Column One misses the mark on brave abortion doctor story

Los Angeles Times' reborn Column One misses the mark on brave abortion doctor story

You do have to wonder at the tone deafness of folks at major newspapers.

Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reintroduced its Column One feature, a “showcase for medium-form journalism,” and the piece is on a valiant doctor who flies to Texas to do 50 abortions in 60 hours.

If you had to pick a piece that seemed to have been created in order to anger a respectable share of the population, this was it. Why not a puff piece on Louis Farrakhan? A feel-good piece about workers at the Diablo Canyon (nuclear) Power Plant? Oh, no, that would offend people.

It’s not unusual for the MSM to glamorize abortionists and this feature is a gripping story. But it goes out of its way to portray Texas as some kind of theocratic Republic of Gilead out of The Handmaid’s Tale being serviced by the enlightened medics from the Golden State.

I’ll get to the actual piece in a moment but I had to first point out the LAT’s unusual history in abortion coverage. Please look at this May 23, 2003, memo by then Editor John Carroll that excoriates his staff for allowing in a biased piece about Texas abortionists being mandated to warn their patients about a possible link of abortion to breast cancer.

(One does wonder why the Times has this fixation with Texas being this medieval place with back-alley abortion laws, but I digress). The Carroll memo says, in part:

The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring "so-called counseling of patients." I don't think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it "so-called," a phrase that is loaded with derision.

The story makes a strong case that the link between abortion and breast cancer is widely discounted among researchers, but I wondered as I read it whether somewhere there might exist some credible scientist who believes in it.

Such a person makes no appearance in the story's lengthy passage about the scientific issue. We do quote one of the sponsors of the bill, noting that he "has a professional background in property management." Seldom will you read a cheaper shot than this. Why, if this is germane, wouldn't we point to legislators on the other side who are similarly bereft of scientific credentials?

It is not until the last three paragraphs of the story that we finally surface a professor of biology and endocrinology who believes the abortion/cancer connection is valid. But do we quote him as to why he believes this? No. We quote his political views.

Apparently the scientific argument for the anti-abortion side is so absurd that we don't need to waste our readers' time with it.

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Classic M.Z. -- Once again, two elite newsrooms offer slanted coverage on a big abortion story

Classic M.Z. -- Once again, two elite newsrooms offer slanted coverage on a big abortion story

Honestly, there was a time about a decade ago or so when I briefly thought that mainstream journalists were making progress when it comes to offering balanced, accurate, fair-minded coverage of abortion issues. At one point there even seemed to be a growing awareness that abortion was not one of those issues that could be labeled as a strictly GOP vs. Republican issue. I mean, there are pro-life liberals out there.

During that time, I had a chance to ask the progressive Catholic pundit E.J. Dionne a question related to this topic during a Pew Forum event inside the Beltway, focusing on faith and politics. I asked him why laws and court decisions here in America protecting abortion rights at all stages of pregnancy were stronger than those in Europe. I think my phrase was "how did America end up to the cultural left of Sweden on abortion?"

A key element of Dionne's answer was that abortion-rights supporters here continue to feel threatened by the strength of their opposition, especially among conservative religious groups. Thus, they resist all efforts at compromise. There is no middle option as, to some degree, there is in parts of Europe.

The news media plays a key element in this fight, of course. You can really see this whenever there is a new threat to the current abortion-rights regime. Take, for example, the the coverage of Catholic activist David Daleiden and the undercover videos released by his Center for Medical Progress project.

Honestly, in this case your GetReligionistas have needed some kind of standing art or logo pointing readers toward the classic "Abortion Bias Seeps Into News" series back in 1990 by media critic David Shaw of The Los Angeles Times. Once again, let me note that Shaw was a supporter of abortion rights and it's crucial that his work was published in a mainstream newspaper.

I could write another piece contrasting the level of press coverage of a grand jury in Texas indicting Daleiden with the coverage produced by the news that all of the charges had been dropped.

I could do that, but I really don't have to -- because M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway has already done a slam dunk on this issue, over at The Federalist.

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The Los Angeles Times on abortion: Does media bias bother anyone any more?

The Los Angeles Times on abortion: Does media bias bother anyone any more?

Just over 25 years ago, the Los Angeles Times’ media writer, David Shaw, did a four-part series on media bias covering abortion. This landmark effort, by a reporter who didn't hide his support for abortion rights, took 18 months and involved 100 interviews with journalists and activists on both sides. It concluded that there was consistent mainstream-media bias favoring the abortion-rights side.

For an elite mainstream news publication to admit that fact was unusual, to say the least.

More than two decades and numerous court rulings later, the Times has come out with another package on abortion, but this time it’s an investigation into how the Center for Medical Progress did a lot more coaching with their undercover agents on how to get Planned Parenthood officials to make inflammatory statements than was first thought.

The Times had student journalists with an investigating reporting program at University of California at Berkeley help them with the research. It begins thus:

She was subdued and sympathetic on camera. Her recollections of collecting fetal tissue and body parts from abortion clinics in northern California lent emotional force to the anti-abortion videos that provoked a furor in Congress last summer.
In footage made public last July, Holly O’Donnell said she had been traumatized by her work for a fetal-tissue brokerage. She described feeling “pain ... and death and eternity” and said she fainted the first time she touched the remains of an aborted fetus.
Unreleased footage filed in a civil court case shows that O’Donnell’s apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed. David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who made the videos, is heard coaching O’Donnell through repeated takes, instructing her to repeat anecdotes, add details, speak “fluidly” and be “very natural.”

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Essay on CNN.com asks: Should journalists who go undercover doing research be worried?

Essay on CNN.com asks: Should journalists who go undercover doing research be worried?

Yes, this is a post about legal issues linked to the Planned Parenthood videos. But that is not where I want to start.

If you followed the twisting legal arguments surrounding the Westboro Baptist Church protests -- especially the horrible demonstrations at the funerals of military veterans -- you know that most of the headlines focused on freedom of speech.

However, journalists had a lot at stake in this fight, too (whether they felt comfortable about that or not). Why is that? Here is how I described the crucial press-freedom issue in a post -- "Why journalists love Westboro Baptist" -- back in 2010. I asked readers to glance at the coverage of Westboro's arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court and:

Then answer these questions. In addition to telling the story of the grieving family, which is essential, does the report in your local news source tell you (a) that the protests were moved to another location that was not in view of the church at which the funeral was held and that mourners did not need to pass the demonstration? Then, (b) does it note that the grieving father's only viewing of these hateful, hellish demonstrations took place when he viewed news media reports or read materials posted on the church's website? Those facts are at the heart of this case, when you are looking at the legal arguments from a secular, legal, even journalistic point of view. This is why so many mainstream news organizations are backing the church.

In other words, when push came to shove journalists had to defend their own right to cover these hateful demonstrations. People who thought of themselves as "liberals" kept shooting at Westboro and hitting the First Amendment, instead. As a statement at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press put it, in 2011:

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On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

On abortion coverage: Is the Houston Chronicle capable of listening to both sides?

Early in 2010, I was wandering about my old haunts in Houston’s Eastwood section, which is southeast of downtown. One obvious change was that a new neighbor was moving into a former bank building on I-45, locally known as the Gulf Freeway -- Planned Parenthood, which was expanding into the six-story building.

Local opponents were claiming that Planned Parenthood would be performing abortions through the 24th week of pregnancy, while PP kept saying it’d only do them through the 19th week. Also, the building was Planned Parenthood’s largest U.S. clinic, a distinction many Texans weren’t wild about. And it was in a majority black and Hispanic area, a fact that opponents frequently note when arguing that Planned Parenthood targets minorities. I think they chose that dodgy area of town because it was close to Hobby Airport and nearly across the street from all the co-eds at the University of Houston.

The day I showed up, the protesters weren’t there, so I drove about the building and snapped some photos. Some of my friends still living in the area had protested against the place, which was walking distance from their homes and my old church. Since it was such a huge facility, it’s no huge surprise that an undercover team of pro-life investigators decided to film what goes on there.

Posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr., talked about the original coverage of the now infamous Planned Parenthood videos last July, plus the current reaction when a grand jury gathered to investigate PP on organ trafficking charges decided instead to indict the two undercover videographers who brought Planned Parenthood’s activities to light.

The bottom line: I want to highlight a story that appeared in the Houston Chronicle that was so one-sided, I’m guessing that the editorial-page team must have moved its operations into the newsroom. It starts thus:

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Media blackout? What media blackout!? Planned Parenthood case is front-page news — this time

Media blackout? What media blackout!? Planned Parenthood case is front-page news — this time

When the secretly recorded Planned Parenthood videos were released last summer, some accused the media of ignoring them.

Others said "thoughtful and substantive coverage" couldn't be rushed.

GetReligion highlighted both arguments in a July 2015 post.

Six months later, nobody's claiming a media blackout this time.

As one GetReligionista put it:

The angle everyone is talking about is the fact that the videos drew almost zero MSM coverage, especially in elite (think NYTs) ink, but the indictment moved as a flash bulletin, with major coverage everywhere....

In case you (somehow) missed the big twist in the Planned Parenthood case, here's the lede from today's Page 1 story in the Houston Chronicle:

A grand jury convened to investigate whether a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic had sold the organs of aborted fetuses on Monday cleared the clinic and instead indicted the undercover videographers behind the allegations, surprising the officials who called for the probe and delighting supporters of the women's health organization.
The Harris County grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, both of California, on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It also charged Daleiden, the leader of the videographers, with the same misdemeanor he had alleged – the purchase or sale of human organs, presumably because he had offered to buy in an attempt to provoke Planned Parenthood employees into saying they would sell.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the indictments in a statement, noting the probe had lasted more than two months.
"As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us," said Anderson, a Republican. "All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case."

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Spotting two Catholic 'ghosts' in the lives of Paul Ryan and David Daleiden

Spotting two Catholic 'ghosts' in the lives of Paul Ryan and David Daleiden

This week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) is about "religion ghosts" in mainstream news, which is about as basic a GetReligion topic as you can get, seeing as how that was the subject of the very first post on this weblog back on Feb. 1, 2004.

In this case, host Todd Wilken and I were talking about posts in which I focused on Catholic ghosts in the lives of two public figures caught up in very big stories in the mainstream press.

First there was this one: "Spot a religion ghost? Paul Ryan is a busy father who wants to help raise his kids." And the second post was about the young man at the heart of the hidden-camera Planned Parenthood videos: "Washington Post meets David Daleiden, whose Catholic faith is less important than his socks."

In both cases, we were dealing with features stories that were supported to help readers understand what makes these men tick, when dealing with major moral and ethical issues. In both cases, their Catholic faith was all but ignored.

Which brings us back to that "ghost" concept, as explained on GetReligion Day 1. Let us attend:

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.
They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.
One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels.

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Washington Post meets David Daleiden, whose Catholic faith is less important than his socks

Washington Post meets David Daleiden, whose Catholic faith is less important than his socks

This post will be shorter than usual because it focuses on the religion content in one of the major stories of the day. I am referring to the large Washington Post news feature that ran under this headline: "Meet the millennial who infiltrated the guarded world of abortion providers." 

The "millennial" in question is, of course, David Daleiden, the young Catholic activist behind all of the hidden-camera Planned Parenthood videos released by his front organization, the Center for Medical Progress (click here for its homepage). 

The word "meet" in the headline made me think that this would be an in-depth profile of this man. Thus, as I read it, I kept waiting for fresh material about this life, faith and motives that I didn't already know from reading -- naturally -- religious-press coverage of this work. This is, after all, a "conservative news" subject.

But one of America's most important mainstream newspapers landed an interview with this man. Surely there would be fresh insights and information, right? Hold that thought.

The key to the story is that is framed primarily in terms of, you got it, political activism. The assumption is that Daleiden's motives for taking on Planned Parenthood are primarily political, Thus, readers are given this summary of why he is important:

Daleiden, 26, is the anti­abortion activist who masterminded the recent undercover campaign aimed at proving that Planned Parenthood illegally sells what he calls aborted “baby body parts.” He captured intimate details of the famously guarded organization, hobnobbing at conferences so secretive that they require background checks and talking his way into a back laboratory at a Colorado clinic where he picked through the remains of aborted fetuses and displayed them luridly for the camera.
Daleiden’s videos landed like a bomb in Washington this summer, providing fodder for a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders and energizing social conservatives on Capitol Hill.

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Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

Back to the Islamic Caitlyn Jenner and the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos

On this week's episode of "Crossroads, the GetReligion podcast, " host Todd Wilken and I discussed the Sacramento Bee's less than sparkling coverage of the man behind the Planned Parenthood videos (who grew up in their back yard, making this truly a local-angle story) and the Los Angeles Times's discovery of a Muslim woman who has become a man. Please click here to tune that in.

Not surprisingly, the key figure in the trans Muslim story lives in San Francisco, which is where I -- as I write this -- have been for the past few days attending a conference of journalism professors known as the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). 

Today I moderated a panel of scholars who were discussing how journalists used to put scare quotes about "Islamophobia" and how increasingly they are not.

This is, of course, a sign that they believe such a phobia is real and not something dreamed up by Muslim apologists. It also implies that this is not a subject worth debating. That's how "scare quotes" work, after all. 

One Muslim professor listening in said that no matter what the story, Muslims -- like Mormons -- are always treated as the "other" -- part of a group that's not quite normal.

My problem with the Los Angeles Times story (which hasn't attracted any comments as of yet) wasn't about fear of Muslims, it more had to do with handling a transgender Muslim with such kid gloves that she/he was spared the normal tough questions a reporter should be asking.

Sound familiar?

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