Your Tax Dollars at Work: NPR’s Scant Gosnell Trial Coverage

April 17th, 2013 3:58 PM

As Newsbusters has detailed again and again, coverage by dominant news organizations of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial has been almost non-existent. Taxpayer-subsidized public radio is no exception, even after the issue of non-coverage gained widespread attention last week.

As the fifth week of the Gosnell trial continues (it opened March 18), NPR still has not devoted a single piece to the topic of the trial. It did briefly reference the trial once--in a story about Pennsylvania abortion clinic regulations that resulted from what authorities found in Gosnell's clinic during a raid. On March 28, NPR's afternoon news magazine All Things Considered gave only 19 seconds out of 4 1/2 minutes to reporting on the Gosnell trial. In sharp contrast, the piece's author, Jeff Brady, NPR's Philadelphia-based National Desk Correspondent, gave five times the amount to time to detailing the "expensive" hardships Pennsylvania abortion clinics now have to endure. The story left out entirely the details of the horrendous charges against Gosnell.

NPR's show dedicated to covering journalism, WNYC's On The Media, has never mentioned the issue of Gosnell news coverage by NPR or any other news organizations. That includes its episode April 12, the day that many journalists and news organizations began discussing the issue of non-coverage of the Gosnell trial. Perhaps On The Media's disinterest is not terribly surprising, given that co-host Bob Garfield last year called Mitt Romney the "Michael Vick of Presidential candidates."

Not to be outdone by NPR, public radio station WHYY's NewsWorks, the "leading news source for Philadelphia, South Jersey & Delaware," has given the Philadelphia trial just two minutes out of 11 hours of airtime on its radio show since the trial began. NewsWorks aired one story March 18, opening trial day and one story April 3. NewsWorks let slip their very limited level of trial coverage in that April piece, saying "last week, the AP reports..." Since 2009, NewsWorks has received around $1 million in direct federal taxpayer funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Incidentally, NewsWorks Friday ran a story titled "Horrific case of animal cruelty basis for PIFA's 'Murderous Mary' play"--about something that happened 97 years ago in Tennessee. When reporting on a current case just miles from their studios, involving horrific treatment of human babies already born and of mothers, however, NewsWorks just couldn't bring itself to using any word close to "horrific."


Transcript excerpts from the March 28 NPR piece on new Pennsylvania abortion clinic regulations (emphasis mine):

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The Kermit Gosnell story is about more than abortion, it's also about class and race. For nearly four decades, Doctor Gosnell offered services to a mostly poor and African-American population in West Philadelphia. When authorities raided Gosnell's clinic three years back, they said there was blood on the floor, a stench of urine in the air and a flea-infested cat wandering through the facility.

In court, Gosnell's attorney says his client is unfairly being held to standards one might expect at the Mayo Clinic. A jury will decide Gosnell's fate. But what is clear now, is that state regulators were not doing their job.


The state legislature also passed a law requiring most clinics be held to a higher standard, the same as outpatient surgery centers. For some clinics, that required expensive remodeling.


BRADY: At Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia, CEO Dayle Steinberg swipes her security badge to get past a heavy wood door.


BRADY: We're headed back to a room where abortions are performed so Steinberg can point out some of the retrofits. She says the tile floor had to be torn out and replaced with a smooth one that's easier to clean.

DAYLE STEINBERG: It's also a special grade linoleum that's quite costly

BRADY: Steinberg says the heating and air conditioning were upgraded. A new room was built just to house sterilization equipment.

STEINBERG: We had to replace the sinks in here to be hands-free sinks.


BRADY: The price tag for two clinics: $450,000. Steinberg says this facility already had a low rate of complications - less than one-tenth of 1 percent. She contends Pennsylvania's new requirements did nothing to improve services for women here.

STEINBERG: They were thinly disguised as improving patient safety, when really it was about increasing the cost for abortion providers; hoping that some of them wouldn't be able to afford it.


BRADY: With the law in place, there are five fewer abortion clinics in Pennsylvania, though it's not clear the stricter regulations were the only reason they closed. That leaves 17 other providers in the state...