Thousands braved miserable conditions and an incoming blizzard to march against abortion on Friday, and the New York Times once again came up short in covering the story, though when compared to previous years there was a veritable “blizzard” of coverage.
The paper’s Public Editor Margaret Sullivan chided the Times in 2014 for its sparse coverage of the annual March for Life, and recommended covering the “gathering with a staff reporter in Washington...The lack of staff coverage unfortunately gives fuel to those who accuse The Times of being anti-Catholic, and to those who charge that the paper’s news coverage continually reflects a liberal bias...”
But the Times failed to take Sullivan’s advice. 2015 march coverage amounted to a half-sentence in a hostile story, and in 2016 the paper also failed to devote a full story to the March for Life.
Print coverage on Saturday consisted of a grand total of two paragraphs (23 and 24) at the very end of the paper’s main weather story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, which left out the name of the march. Perhaps only the presence of presidential candidate Carly Fiorina kept it from being a total shutout.
Amid the preparations, at least one event did go on as planned on Friday in Washington. Even as snow started falling early in the afternoon, what appeared to be more than a thousand anti-abortion activists -- albeit fewer than most years -- rallied beneath the Washington Monument for their annual march commemorating the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
The crowd heard from Carly Fiorina, a Republican presidential candidate, and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who thanked them for braving the cold and “putting on your coats, your mittens and your gloves to fight for life.”
And yet...the snowstorm produced a miracle of sorts in Sunday’s edition, a positive story about the endurance of stranded motorists, including some of the would-be marchers (albeit while faulting the March for Life organizers for insisting on keeping the protest on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) and a mention of a "snow altar" and impromptu Mass held on the side of the turnpike.
Sabrina Swidergal was among hundreds of Catholic high school and college students returning from an anti-abortion rally in Washington who started their weekend stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The ordeal for the Catholic students began when organizers of the March for Life decided to go ahead with their protest in on Friday, despite warnings from officials to stay off the roads ahead of a storm expected to bring about two feet of snow to the region. While urging participants to take precautions, march officials stuck to the date, Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Thousands of people turned out for the march, and many became stuck in traffic that began forming on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Friday night when tractor-trailers were unable to climb a hill toward the Allegheny Mountain tunnels, about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Ms. Swidergal, 19, a freshman at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, was aboard one of eight buses that carried hundreds of students, faculty members and staff members from her school to the march. They wound up spending the night on the turnpike.
The trapped students did not seem to mind their impromptu sleepover. They passed the time sleeping, praying, meeting other groups, playing in the snow and doing homework. Some took part in a roadside Mass celebrated by a priest at an altar made of snow.
“We were all very aware of what could happen with the blizzard coming and everything,” Ms. Swidergal said. “Our desire to go and march for something we felt so strongly for was more important than being stuck on a bus for a few hours.”
Scott Moser, 17, a senior at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin, Neb., was attending the annual march for the fourth time.
“We all knew the circumstances and we took that chance,” he said. “We were going to come no matter what.”
As NewsBusters has reported before, the Times has become notorious for virtually ignoring the March for Life, which takes place every year in late January, on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, and reliably draws tens of thousands of pro-lifers, many of them young people, out into the winter cold. In 2013, after a five-year absence of print stories, the paper finally covered it, only to pair a so-so story with a rebuttal about gun control. In 2014, after yet another news blackout, Sullivan waded into the controversy.
By contrast, the Times is eager to publicize any scrap of news it deems helpful to one of its pet causes, such as amnesty for illegals: In January 2010 it granted a full news story to a protest involving a grand total of four illegal immigrants.
There were a few more scraps of 2016 march coverage at nytimes.com. Maggie Haberman mentioned the march as an afterthought in a Friday post about Hillary Clinton, again keyed to Fiorina’s promised presence. There was also a brief un-narrated video report of some of the marchers.