This morning, as I was watching the rally for life and the activities surrounding the March for Life, I could not help but be amazed by the diversity, the youth, the joy, the hopefulness, and the general love of neighbor exhibited by those in attendance. I heard from women who have their children with the help of pregnancy centers, I heard from those who have devoted their life to public service and to the Gospel, I heard from those who have built maternity homes, I heard from those who experienced great sorrow following an abortion and those who have dedicated their lives to helping other women who grieve after abortion, I heard from those who have worked in the abortion industry and gotten out, and I heard from those who now help others get out. I heard from men and women who were conceived in rape or incest, born with disabilities, or placed for adoption.
Nonetheless, when I turned to social media I was hit by a multitude of self-sanctimonious people making claims that we, the pro-life faithful of the United States, are obsessed with the fetus, only care about babies before they are born, neglect the poor and the homeless and the disenfranchised. This is completely contrary to reality, and a topic I will debunk another time, because what I want to focus on is how in a world of instant news no one is seeing the breadth and the depth and the love exhibited by the prolife community - because this beautiful diversity is not showing up in the secular media or outside of our own echo-chambers. Why is that?
There has been much made of the silence of the media and unbalanced coverage in past Marches for Life, and anecdotally it seemed accurate. This year however with the historic moment of hearing from Kellyanne Conway, Vice President Pence, and even via Twitter the President of the United States, we thought there would be good coverage. So, I took a look at the local media coverage of the March for Life and how it contrasts (so far) with last week's so-called Women's March on Washington (where pro-choice men were welcome but pro-life women not). I even decided to tweet encouragement to our local news stations for equity in coverage.
Why do this? Because by far, the coverage has not been particularly equitable so far today. What do I mean by that? This afternoon we visited the social media (Twitter and Facebook) accounts of four local TV stations - NBC4, ABC6, CBS10, and FOX28 to check to compare their coverage of the two D.C. Marches. Now, a few things to keep in mind - the day is not over, and they may increase their coverage (in fact, after our tweets, Fox28 shared how they are covering and one station added a tweet (this may have been planned; we do not know, but the timing seems likely). I also did not compare coverage of the Columbus Roe event to the Columbus Women's March - both occurred about a week prior to the DC March. I am sharing this now, hoping that our supporters in social media actively (and politely and respectfully) reach out to these media cites to encourage them in the fair coverage. Use #WhyWeMarch and #Cbus4Life for the next day or so, so that we and they can see the impact. Also, go to the facebook posts and tweets that they did make and like and share.
Here is what we found, listed in order of most fair coverage to least fair.
Fox TV Columbus (WTTE Fox 28 on Facebook and @fox28columbus on Twitter) had the most balanced coverage on social media. Their facebook page had two posts from the Women's March on Facebook and four on Twitter. Today, they had one post on Facebook and two on Twitter. They also referenced pro-life laws in other states twice this week on Facebook.
10 TV (WBNS TV 10 on Facebook and @10TV on Twitter) could have done better. Their coverage included three posts to each of Facebook and Twitter on the Women's March and 1 post (a live feed) of the March for Life on Facebook. As of 4pm Friday, we saw no twitter activity covering the March for Life.
WSYX ABC 6 (WSYX ABC 6 on Facebook and @wsyx6 on Twitter) tweeted about the Women's March on DC 13 times. They initially tweeted twice about the March for Life. After our tweet they tweeted a link to their live coverage on the March on Facebook (this may have been planned or it may have been prompted by our tweet). They posted to Facebook three times about the Women's March and once (a live feed) on Facebook. After our tweet, they posted (the same live feed) again in their timeline. This may have been planned or may have been a response.
NBC4i (NBC4 on Facebook and @NBC4i on Twitter) posted 27 tweets of the Women's March (including 1-2 embedded reporters) and 1 of the March for Life (yesterday they noted that Vice President Pence would be attending). On Facebook, NBC4 posted 9 updates on the Women's March and 5 on the March for Life. This is extremely unfair coverage.
What Can We Do?
At the end of the day, editors and social media managers are responsible for what their teams post, but we as the public also have a responsibility to work to make sure that the media outlets are hearing from ,pro-life voices in the community. In the end, it is impossible not to conclude that there is at least some bias against the pro-life message in our local TV media, especially as it plays out in social media. Here is how you can help. First - especially on twitter - make sure you are tagging the local media in your experiences for the March for Life. We at GCRTL are also going to work to do a little better to make sure that news media hear more from us in 2017 about the pro-life activities going on around town, but it is tough. We do not have the staff or volunteer resources to develop a media relationship, and we admit that it can be discouraging to publicize our efforts when the stories come out imbalanced.
If you'd like to help us in 2017 as a volunteer in the role of media relations, let us know today. We are also working toward a budget that allows us to bring on a part-time staff member or intern who can do this type of work. If 150 people gave an extra $100 this year, we could meet that need. What do you say?
Note: We did not include the local print media in this review. However, kudos to the Columbus Dispatch, whose Washington DC Bureau office covered many of the local pilgrimages to DC which were shared on social media.