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From bias to blackout?

Let's stipulate at the outset that the trial of Kermit Gosnell -- who is charged with murdering seven babies and one patient in his nightmarish, unmonitored Philadelphia abortion mill -- whichbegan on March 18, should have received more coverage from national media outlets. (You can catch up with the story by reading Mollie Wilson O'Reilly's dotCommonweal posts here, here, and here-- published in January and February 2011.) As New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has pointed out, while her paper's work on Gosnell was "not insubstantial," there "certainly could be more coverage." But was the relatively limited national coverage of the early stages of Gosnell's trial, following, as it did, lots of coverage of the nauseating grand-jury report two years ago, motivated by journalists' prochoice bias, as so many critics claim? Was it a "full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media"? Or merely one that looked planned because of the media's uniformly prochoice ideology?

Is this such an open-and-shut caseof media bias? I'm dubious.

I see at least four problems with the idea that liberal media bias is mostly to blame for the "blackout." First, where were these critics while the liberal media was mum on the Gosnell trial? Kirstin Powers made a splash with her column, "We've Forgotten What Belongs on Page One," but if the trial is as newsworthy as she says, then why did she wait until April 11 -- three weeks after it began -- to mention it? On the same day, a New York Post editorial claimed that the reason for the "media blackout" was "obvious: Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion." Yet that editorial seems to be the first time thePost mentioned Gosnell at all. What about Rupert Murdoch's other New York paper? Turns out the Wall Street Journal apparently hasn't covered the trial either. Other conservative outlets? Not much better. The conservative Washington Times, Kevin Drums points out, has published just one story on the trial (but several on the "media blackout"). And Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald found little coverage of the story from conservative news organizations: "the Weekly Standard has done three pieces (the magazine has run six stories on Justin Bieber)." (One of the standard complaints is that the national media has covered far less important stories much more frequently.) And what about our elected representatives -- not members of the press, of course, but news-makers all the same? The three congressmen who spoke about Gosnell on Thursday -- all Republicans -- apparently had nothing to say about him during the 2011-2012 session of Congress. (Indeed, Seitz-Wald found that the 2011-2012 Congressional Record contains no references to Gosnell.) Do they have a role in the "blackout"? Or is there a chance these critics just weren't paying much attention until now?

Problem two: Some of the first people to cover Gosnell were prochoice writers. From the start, they argued that the terrible details in the grand-jury report redounded to the benefit of their cause. Indeed, some used the case to press for more public funding of abortions -- precisely because many of Gosnell's patients were poor women. Simon van Zuylen-Wood summarized their arguments this way:

The moral to be drawn from the Gosnell trial is not that current abortion laws are screwed up. Indeed, Gosnell broke them, which is why hes on trial. Rather, its that as individual states increasingly restrict abortion rights, more and more illegal clinics, like Gosnells may crop up.

Or, as Katha Pollitt put it, "This is what illegal abortion looks like." Of course, not everyone agreed. Former Commonweal columnist Melinda Henneberger was among the first to point out that no, actually, this is what unregulated abortion looks like. Gosnell's offices hadn't been inspected for nearly two decades. According to the grand-jury report, when Gov. Bob Casey left office in 1993, the Pennsylvania Department of Health stopped inspecting abortion clinics:

The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey [a prolife Democrat] to Governor Ridge [a prochoice Republican], officials concluded that inspections would be "putting a barrier up to women" seeking abortions. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.

As Henneberger points out, even though a National Abortion Federation representative visited Gosnell's clinic (at his invitation, amazingly) and found it "the worst...she had ever seen," according to the grand jury, she didn't inform authorities. Strange behavior for someone whose job is to ensure that women have access to safe, legal abortions. Gov. Tom Corbett eventually fired the officials faulted by the grand jury, and ordered that abortion clinics be inspected annually.

In my judgment, Henneberger has the stronger argument. But the policy question is not the same as that of media bias. One may not agree with the lessons prochoice writers think we should learn from the horrors cataloged by the grand-jury report, but they did not shy away from its contents. Indeed, disagreement between journalists like Pollitt and Henneberger makes it difficult to assert that the Gosnell case obviously supports one cause or the other. That complicates charges of liberal media bias. And the report was covered by major national news outlets -- as soon as it was released.

Which brings me to the third problem for the allegation of liberal bias: Why did it take the liberal media so long to figure out how damaging the Gosnell story was to their pet cause? If they were really interested in shielding Gosnell from public view, why would they have run lots of stories on it two years ago? Why would the AP be reporting on it every day? If this is a "mainstream media blackout," it's the worst ever.

A fourth problem: What kind of coverage do the critics want? All day Friday, and throughout much of the weekend, Twitter was blowing up with interrogations of tweeting reporters: Why aren't you covering this trial? But has anyone suggested how the story should be covered now? "Cover it immediately, every day," seems to be their mantra. Few acknowledge that trials are different kinds of stories, requiring different resources -- more than it takes, say, for someone to sit in front of a computer with a grand-jury report, typing out its most stomach-turning details. How should reporters and editors approach the story in a way that distinguishes it from their previous coverage? Where is the tension? Does anyone believe Gosnell will get off? Do prolife critics want the horrors recounted every time someone takes the stand? But, a news editor might wonder, if they have already been widely told -- two years ago, when the grand-jury report dropped -- why do it all again by reporting daily testimony against Gosnell?

The New York Times had someone there at the beginning of the trial. The paper will have someone there for the end (if someone isn't there already). Others will follow suit. Trial coverage often goes this way. Television is picking up the story again now, although since when did we start pining for TV news coverage of anything? For now it's mostly commentary on the alleged "blackout." This is a difficult story for TV news -- and not only because TV cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom. People don't want to think about baby dismemberment as they start their day, over dinner, or before bed. Perhaps that's the key to understanding the limited coverage of this trial. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly acknowledged this during a Friday segment on Gosnell coverage: "We have not been covering this story in great detail because it's so horrific.... It's just too dark to talk about the murder of all of these babies. And the testimony has been so gruesome. It's a hard subject to put on the front page or in your program every day." She might have added that the exploitation of poor women isn't exactly the media's favorite subject.

Credit where it's due: those who lobbied for more trial coverage are going to get it. This is a good thing. But did they need to indulge their darkest fears about the "mainstream media" in the process? Did they have to call it a "blackout"? Presuming ill will is always a dangerous move -- after all, as the coverage of the coverage shows, it can cut both ways. Is it impossible that some reporters and editors looked away because they didn't want to spread bad news about abortion? Of course not. But is it the only, or even the best explanation for the media handling of Gosnell's trial? As much as I agree with those who are outraged by the contents of the grand-jury report, and as much as I'm persuaded by Henneberger's response to that terrible document, I can't answer yes to that question. Occam's razor applies.

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Thanks for this, Grant. I was bewildered when I first started seeing people complain about the media's "silence" on Gosnell, because I remembered reading (and writing) all about the case two years ago. I read that whole horrifying Grand Jury report, and I found it by following a link from one of those mainstream newspapers. I guess a lot of people missed it at the time, but their not having been aware of it does not mean the media conspired to hide it from them. So, no blackout. And as you point out, it's very hard to square the assumption that news orgs are avoiding reporting on the trial because it might set back the prochoice cause with the reality that many prochoice commentators were all over this story two years ago because they thought it helped their case. I can't get over this take, which you linked to, from Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice: "The unwillingess to report on this story...it is most reasonable to conclude, reflects the reporters' decision that it would be unhelpful to the cause of expanding abortion rights." That's the most reasonable conclusion he could come up with? He needs to do a little more reasoning and a lot more reading.I'm not even sure that more coverage, in itself, is something to be wished for. Wall-to-wall media coverage of criminal trials is rarely an edifying spectacle. I'd like the case to be more generally known and discussed -- especially since so many people who I would have expected to be interested were apparently not paying attention when the news broke back in 2011. But if people are going to use this case as a peg to hang their preexisting resentments on, ignoring what's really challenging about it in public-policy terms, what good would more frequent coverage do?

Hi, just got back from the doctor's waiting room, where I was shocked to learn that Obama is lusting to cap our IRAs at $3 million because he wants the government to control us and that Gen. Eisenhower slept with his driver. And that was on Megyn Kelly, where Fox comes closest to being honest. That's how these blackouts spread, I guess.

Here is the Times' take (no preexisting resentments in evidence) on "this weekend's silliness about coverage:"http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/kermit-gosnell-and-reprod...

Mollie Wilson OReilly: regarding your comments: I remembered reading (and writing) all about the case two years ago. I read that whole horrifying Grand Jury report, and I found it by following a link from one of those mainstream newspapers. I guess a lot of people missed it at the time, but their not having been aware of it does not mean the media conspired to hide it from them. So, no blackout. And as you point out, its very hard to square the assumption that news orgs are avoiding reporting on the trial because it might set back the prochoice cause with the reality that many prochoice commentators were all over this story two years ago because they thought it helped their case. I cant get over this take, which you linked to, from Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice: The unwillingess to report on this storyit is most reasonable to conclude, reflects the reporters decision that it would be unhelpful to the cause of expanding abortion rights. Thats the most reasonable conclusion he could come up with? He needs to do a little more reasoning and a lot more reading.No blackout??? Nonsense. You need to do a lot more reading and reasoning. See Kirsten Powers U.S. News column that prompted discussion about lack of coverage of the Gosnell trial: A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial's first day. They've been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/04/10/philadelphia-abortion-c... fact that major newspapers and possibly the major networks reported on the shocking grand jury report when it first appeared seemingly out of the blue hardly refutes accusations of bias for lack of coverage of the trial two years later. Given reporters knowledge of the grand jury report one would have expected to see near saturation coverage as was the case with other otherwise local crimes stories such as the O.J. trial, the Casey Anthony trial, and now even the Jodi Arias trial. Well see the pattern repeated soon when the Trayvon Martin murder trial begins. After all, a death penalty prosecution of a doctor for killing a patient and newborn babies is rare enough by itself to engender substantial coverage and the likelihood of sensational testimony only adds to the if it bleeds it leads inducement for full coverage.The fact is, in view of the well documented liberal, pro-choice slant of the major news outlets which worship at the altar of abortion rights, Professor Garnetts opinion is plainly justified. And your no blackout comment is obtuse.

A couple of responses:1. No one has said there was a complete and 100% blackout, such that no media outlet had ever mentioned the story before now. The argument I've seen, which seems hard to dispute, is that there has been about 1,000 times less coverage of this story than the wall-to-wall saturation coverage given to Newtown, Columbine, or other jaw-dropping sensational crimes. 2. Sure, there are a few hard-core pro-choicers who are well familiar with and don't mind the horrors of abortion, and who were therefore willing to discuss this story before now (with the angle that it shows the need for even more abortion). That doesn't disprove the fact that most pro-choice journalists, the kind who exist in polite society, are rather more skittish about delving into the nasty details about abortion. They'd rather just sweep it all under the carpet. 3. What kind of coverage do people want? Conor Friedersdorf provides a good model of how a journalist could think about this:

For this isn't solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydiae to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games when giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless untrained staffers. Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines?But it isn't even solely a story of a rogue clinic that's awful in all sorts of sensational ways either. Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions! If I were a city editor for any Philadelphia newspaper the grand jury report would suggest a dozen major investigative projects I could undertake if I had the staff to support them.

I am surprised by this wobbly piece by Gallicho.Like 'Wasting Time' said, no one has claimed a "100%" black-out across the media spectrum, but the fact of the matter is that (at least until recently) ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NPR, and PBS had reported NOTHING about the trial. That is a big deal.(As a regular listener of NPR, I know that they are still too busy airing fawning stories of Hugo Chavez while reiterating for the 1,000th time what a horrible leader Margaret Thatcher was.)And Gallicho's remark about WSJ ... While it is well known that the editorial/op-ed pages of the WSJ are quite conservative, the *news* division of the WSJ is actually liberal. (And, btw, Media Matters is a *gross* web site. Yuck.)

Oh, they meant a partial blackout. I see.Do those people speak English?

Thanks, Fr Imbelli, for the link to the Rosenthan piece in the Times. Yes, just a lot of silliness, and really what the story about some "supposed" media bias brings up is that: "this sort of intimidation and through legitimate political action, anti-abortion forces have been alarmingly successful in restricting womens access to reproductive health services, including birth control, cancer screening and other services. That is the real issue." Notice how the word "abortion" is missing from all the reproductive health issues. It is also interesting to note how so many journalists rush to their own defense (or the defense of other practioners of their craft) when the profession is attacked. It can be a bit reminiscent of when other groups (Vatican, bishops, priests) rush to one another's defense when the actions of their compatriots come under attack or scrutiny. We must protect the tribe!

I had the same thought as Anthony Andreass. That editorial blog post certainly reflects its own media bias when all of a sudden we don't call abortion "abortion" anymore .The title of the post: "Kermit Gosnell and Reproductive Care" and.. "If anything, the case highlights the need for safe, affordable and available womens reproductive health care."What's that all about?

More from Kirsten Powers on the lack of mainstream news coverage of the Gosnell trial:Yes, There Is a Gosnell Trial Cover-up by Major News Organizations, 4/16/13http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/16/yes-there-is-a-gosnell-... article is written in English, so Grant Gallicho can have no complaint.Excerpt: while it seems obvious that the national media has mostly ignored the story, a bevy of left-wing journalists and activists have loudly disagreed in recent daysasserting that the big three networks and the major newspapers have appropriately covered a trial that none sent a reporter to cover. If youve never heard of the Gosnell story, Irin Carmon wrote in a widely circulated Salon piece, its probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011.As for (Carmons) claim that there was copious coverage she links to RH Reality Check (Reproductive & Sexual Health and Justice), The Grio, Philadelphia Weekly, The Nation, CBS Newss Crimesider blog, and NPR. That so many of the people now rushing to claim that Gosnell was widely covered cant tell the difference between activist media and The New York Times or CBS Evening News is a little scary. Of the outlets she listed, NPR is the only one that can reasonably be considered mainstream, so yea for that one story. (Powers initial column) and the ensuing outrageand much of the outrage came from people with vaginas despite Carmons egregious and divisive claim that it was just the patriarchy rearing its ugly headwas specific to the fact that the mainstream media had not covered the trial of Kermit Gosnell, which started March 18, 2013. I am going to repeat this, because a starling number of people on the left, including New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, either cannot grasp this or are intentionally ignoring it. Repeat after me: The problem is that the trial has not been covered. That the Times ran one story about Gosnell in January is hardly relevant to the trial that started in March.It is the trial that has included spectacular and headline-grabbing testimony from Gosnells former assistants and workers. It is the trial that has been largely ignored outside of local media and activists on the right and left. This, despite the normal obsession with murder trials (Good Morning America has done a 10-part series on the Jody Arias trial). It is the trialrife with grisly details about an abortion doctor who maimed and killed women and babiesthat was ignored, despite The Washington Posts, The New York Times's, and network evening newss usual obsession with all things abortion related.

Mr. Gallicho -- The original column by Kristen Powers did not use the word "blackout," in English or otherwise. What she did say was this:

Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. . . . A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial's first day. They've been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony.

Nothing that you say disproves or even directly addresses her claims there.

I was responding to DPierre. But now Powers is talking about a coverup, so I see she's upped the ante. She says feminists are angry that the "mainstream media" are not paying attention to Gosnell. That makes me wary of her analytical apparatus. It's not as obvious as she thinks. When you're editing a piece, and your author writes something like, "it's obvious that" or begins an argument with "clearly," it's always a good idea to look very hard at the claims that follow. But I'm sure she's done complaining now because the "big guns" have showed up in Philly: http://www.phillyburbs.com/blogs/news_columnists/jd_mullane/big-media-sh... Imbelli has linked to a piece, calling it "the Times' take." Curiously he did not pick up on something I linked to in my post, by the public editor of the New York Times:http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/politics-aside-the-gosn... let's stop pretending journalists are incapable of self-criticism.

Nothing "curious" about it Grant.Kudos to Ms Sullivan for her self-criticism (which you've commended):"I do think that it wasnt on their radar screen and that it should have been. The murders of seven newborn babies, done so horrifically, would be no ordinary crime. Any suggestion, including mine on Friday, that this is just another murder trial is a miscalculation. And its certainly possible that journalists who were more in touch with conservative voices and causes would have picked up on the importance of this trial sooner.Judged on news value alone, the Gosnell trial deserves more coverage than its had, in The Times and elsewhere."But it's clear that the Public Editor's "take" is her own; Mr. Rosenthal speaks for the "Times." Or am I wrong?

No, Bob, in fact Rosenthal's comments were from his personal blog so represent his own views -- and even moreso that the way B16's Jesus books represented his personal views, for example. When the NYT editorial board speaks ex cathedra, as it were, that is the result of collaborative discussions that Rosenthal oversees, along with the publisher. They haven't made any pronouncements on their thoughts on Gosnell coverage that I have seen. Moreover, as you know the editorial and news sides are separate entities. They may have similar views but news coverage decisions are in fact made, or not made, on their own. Much of this Gosnell debate is in fact among journalists (and the NYT and other places have ombudspeople, which is more than one can say of the Catholic Church). Grant's argument here is solid; I havent seen any evidence against it. Expressions of fuming resentment at the media and the NYT don't count as evidence, BTW.

That's very confusing if a NY Times editor has a blog on the NY Times website "the Editor's blog", which reflects his own opinion and does not reflect the position of the paper.

The trouble with the "media bias" claim is this: you can't keep insisting that mainstream news outlets are obviously not reporting on the Gosnell trial because they find it unhelpful to the prochoice cause once you are forced to acknowledge that they did report on the case when the news first broke. And they did, because, again, that's how I found out about it. Two years ago. Kirsten Powers can see that problem, and it seems she's moving forward by insisting that only coverage of the trial should matter, and disregarding the reporting that preceded her media-bias campaign -- pretending, for example, that Irin Carmon's links to long-ago coverage of the case (which she herself described as "disparate") are exhaustive, or that the gory details of Gosnell's crime were only revealed after the trial began. Someone should lend Powers their Lexis-Nexis password. Speaking of self-critical journalists, Melinda Henneberger has a thoughtful take at the Washington Post. Her judgment:

I say we didnt write more because the only abortion story most outlets ever cover in the news pages is every single threat or perceived threat to abortion rights. In fact, that is so fixed a view of what constitutes coverage of that issue that its genuinely hard, I think, for many journalists to see a story outside that paradigm as news.

She may be right. And it may be that the same fixed view made it hard for journalists to see this story as many prochoice commentators saw it -- as a story that was about threatened abortion rights. Henneberger is worth listening to, and so are a lot of other journalists who have weighed in. However, a lot of what's passing for journalism criticism -- the stuff that kicked off this uproar in the first place -- doesn't seem to be founded on any real interest in how journalism works or should work. Unless you're prepared to seriously examine how trials (as opposed to public crimes, police investigations, high-profile arrests, etc.) are covered in various media, it's begging the question to say that this trial would be getting more coverage than it is if it weren't about abortion. I'm someone who worked to bring the case to people's attention two years ago, and I think we should still be talking about it. But I also think it's genuinely hard to say what the Gosnell case "deserves" in terms of trial coverage. It will get more now, certainly, because people have expressed an interest; perhaps if more readers had reacted to the initial reports of the case in 2011, major outlets would have prioritized following the progress of the trial. But it's tautological to say that this trial is obviously being under-covered because other events/stories that are getting more coverage are...getting a lot of coverage. It's not being covered like Newtown because it isn't Newtown. It's not being covered like Casey Anthony, either, or that American student who was accused of murdering her roomate in Italy. The contrasts don't redound to anyone's credit, but the reasons for the differences are complex and not obviously ideological.

But its tautological to say that this trial is obviously being under-covered because other events/stories that are getting more coverage aregetting a lot of coverage. Who has said this? I think the argument is that this trial is being under-covered because other events (even other trials) that are no more sensational (probably less so) and that offer fewer angles to explore (such as regulatory oversight) regularly get much more coverage.

Another odd aspect of the journalistic "blackout" alleged here is that the entire case raises issues that can be dealt with by the very outlets that ignored the case and are now complaining. National Review, Commentary, the whole bunch are places that don't cover trials per se -- they can't afford to, and shouldn't be excpected to. But the regularly cover the Big Issues raised by these cases, and the Gosnell case is full of them. You can write about them from your desk. So why they haven't is interesting, and not explained. And why they are now complaining about others not writing about what they ignored is weird.

"Oh, they meant a partial blackout. I see."A gray-out?The handling of this case is simple. All the gory details came out two years ago. For network news to cover this, Dr Gosnall would have had to had ties to Rev Wright. Or one of the assistants was having an affair with Justin Bieber.Political pro-lifers would have had a field day if they could have managed this horror like Terry Schiavo: family feuds, mayors and governors, etc.. On the other hand, real journalists, if there are any left working for Our Corporate Masters, would be sifting through why Republicans pulled the plug on abortion mill oversight. Maybe they'd have to deal with the reality that Richard Nixon was our most anti-life president, and oops, he was a Republican, too.How silly do they want this to get?

David writes,"Rosenthals comments were from his personal blog so represent his own views."Views which he brings to the "editorial board" as editorial page editor. Let us savvy media people who are adept at "speaking truth to power" not play naive.And "expressions of fuming resentment" is a tired rhetorical trope on a par with "preexisting resentments." It seems resentment is all the rage these days.

There's a huge semantic problem in all of this: the term "media" is a plural noun, and it signifies many kinds of media and within the many kinds there many individual outlets. Everybody knows this -- yet we persist in using the term as a singular when that doesn't match reality. In her second article, Kirsten What's-her-name is getting to this problem. She notes that the mainstream media (ABC, NBC, CBS, ets.) barely noted the trial, and, yes, we need to ask why. As to covering the topic of mistreatment of women at Gosnell's, the feminist voices hardly covered it at all -- for instance, Planned Parenhood and League of Women Voters never covered the Gosnell clinic's appalling conditions even though they had persisted for 16 years and many complaints had been made. Their lack of interest in the bad treatment of some women is also a story. Why *wasn't* Planned Parenthood on the backs of the local and state health authorities that ignored the complaints? Complexity, complexity, complexity.

Bob, always good to see you taking the high road.Could you provide some evidence that would counter Grant's arguments rather than innuendo?

...the NYT and other places have ombudspeople (sic), which is more than one can say of the Catholic Church...That goes on my list of things Id never thought Id hear.*************It seems resentment is all the rage these days.That goes on my list of things I wish that I had said.*************Why wasnt Planned Parenthood on the backs of the local and state health authorities that ignored the complaints?That goes on my list of things that I can answer. AnnIsnt it obvious? The whole edifice could come crashing down if people started poking around. PP certainly doesnt want their cash cow endangered.

Robert: No one said Rosenthal lacks influence on the editorial board. He runs the opinion page (that is, he solicits and accepts and edits op-eds). He is not duty-bound to pretend he doesn't have any opinions of his own. David's comparison with Benedict's books is apt. Editorial meetings, I can tell you from experience, are rarely without disagreement. You said that Rosenthal "speaks for the Times," then asked whether you were wrong. David explained why you were wrong. And on this point you are. Critics of the "mainstream media" often forget, or don't know to begin with, that the editorial page does not assign news stories. So Rosenthal has nothing to do with Times news coverage of Gosnell.

Grant,I certainly accept your experience. I have no doubt that "editorial meetings are rarely without disagreement." However, that disagreement is within certain parameters. Were you on the Board of "First Things" or R.R. Reno on "Commonweal's" Board, I do not doubt that the range of disagreement would be much greater.Thus my point above was to suggest that Mr. Rosenthal's "take" is far closer to the "Times'" editorial position and attitude than is that of the Public Editor. We remember well the final column of one of her predecessor's regarding the "Times" uniformly "liberal" world view, holding any other "take" incomprehensible. My "speaking for the Times" intended to suggest, perhaps without sufficient precision, that Rosenthal is both representative of and influential in articulating the "Times'" editorial position. I do understand the difference between a blog post and a signed editorial.As to your assertion that "the editorial page does not assign news stories," does that not need some qualification? Are you saying that the editors of the paper (be it the "Times" or the "Post") do not assign new stories and then decide on their placement in the paper? And I do appreciate your acknowledgement in the original post: "Credit where its due: those who lobbied for more trial coverage are going to get it. This is a good thing."

Maybe there is less coverage of these awful murders because they are just too awful for people to want to follow, even people who like to follow scandalous murders.I know I can't read about it, it's just too horrible. If people won't read it, will papers write about it?

Robert: No, I am saying that newspapers are quite serious about maintaining a firewall between its editorials and its reporting. The Washington bureau chief, for example, will assign reporters to cover news on that beat. That wouldn't be part of Rosenthal's job.

Grant,And to whom does the Washington Bureau Chief speak and report? Who decided now to cover the trial in question? Who decides what stories to run and where to position them? Am I being obtuse or are you being naive? During the Conclave there were reporters who received instructions as to what to focus on and highlight. I suggest that the "firewall" is quite porous -- both on the left and the right.

Robert: I don't know whether you're being obtuse. I get the sense that you've decided how the New York Times really is, and you're working hard to resist the testimony of actual working journalists that undermines your view of the paper. Are there bureau chiefs and section editors who agree with Rosenthal? Certainly. Is that the only explanation for the fact that the Times hasn't been covering the trial on a daily basis? Certainly not.

Methinks "only" tells the tale.

I'm still trying to figure out why the guy gets his own personal blog on the NY Times website. Why should anyone care about his personal opinion about anything?