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Finding fresh angles at March for Life

January 28th, 2011
Posted by Mollie
Watch this video: Media Malpractice

The 38th annual March for Life was held today, an event for which media coverage is always a contentious topic. The video embedded here is something that came out from a pro-life group after some of the media coverage of last year’s march. As such, the language is rather partisan. But I highlight it to show what, exactly, pro-lifers complain about. Others argue that these complaints are such an annual rite themselves that maybe pro-life leaders should take some of the blame for their public relations problems.

Let’s look at some of the early coverage. First the lede to an NPR “news blog” report:

Marchers are gathering this hour on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for what’s become an annual event — the March for Life rally and demonstration by those who want to see the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision reversed and abortion made illegal again.

It’s not a big deal, but if it’s the 38th annual March for Life and Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, when, exactly, did this march become an annual event? It makes it sound like a recent occurrence.

It’s true that the march receives less coverage than its importance in the pro-life movement. So, for instance, there was nothing in the Washington Post print edition this morning, even a warning about road closures or other traffic issues. Or at least I didn’t see anything when I read the paper this morning. Normally for big protests here in town you’ll see more stories leading up to the event. And there were things to cover prior to today’s march — last night there was a Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for instance. And the folks that bus in from all over the country are sleeping on church basements and friends’ couches all over the region. Even just the management of the many buses is one of the hot topics in my old Capitol Hill neighborhood. The march itself is just one part of days’ worth of events. But annual events just aren’t considered as newsworthy in the minds of many editors.

Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a compelling story about the 6,000 marchers from Pittsburgh. Here’s how it begins:

When she became pregnant as an unmarried college student 31 years ago, “I never considered that there was a life being nurtured inside of me,” said the Rev. Peggy Means.

She had an abortion, which she thought of as “a clinical procedure that I needed to get on with my life.”

But today she will tell her story to thousands of abortion protesters at a rally as part of the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Her goal is to urge other women not to have abortions and to reach out to those who have.

The article includes a lot of data and explanation of the march and surrounding events. It even gets into such topics as grace and redemption! Certainly this is not standard for coverage of the march, but it’s a great example of how to write an interesting story about the real people who come to the event. It’s also funny to me that Pittsburgh alone sends 6,000 people but usually the entire crowd size is characterized as “thousands.” While technically accurate, it minimizes the size of the crowd, which organizers claim number in the hundreds of thousands. It’s hard to get an accurate count but “thousands” just doesn’t quite cut it, I don’t think.

I have to say that I enjoyed a brief Washington Post report from the youth mass at the Verizon Center prior to today’s march. That morphed into a larger story about the day’s events. Here’s a chunk dealing with the morning mass:

Keep reading.

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