Praying the Post

Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other.

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Thursday, January 23, 2003
Making it count

There's not much more to say that isn't stunningly obvious about the Post's coverage of the March for Life, particularly in comparison with the anti-war rally.But I just want to tease one point a little, the question of numbers.

How many people marched against war on Saturday in Washington? "Tens of thousands," reported the Post.

How many people marched against legal abortion on Wednesday in Washington? "Tens of thousands," reported the Post.

Fine, that's just the Post's way of dealing with the fact that no one has a very accurate count of these things. But, "The [March for Life] crowd was estimated by U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer at 50,000." And, "'I've heard estimates [of attendance at the anti-war march] anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 from people who've seen a lot of these things,' Gainer said." (This last quote from a valuable article on crowd estimation.)

Does this make the two events roughly the same size?

What is it, precisely, that makes the anti-war event more newsworthy than the anti-abortion event? I mean, I know that war is more newsworthy than abortion rights, but what is the story of the anti-war march, and how does it differ from the story of the anti-abortion march?

At least they're up front about their dishonesty

I sent this letter to Michael Getler, the Post's ombusdman:
Dear Mr. Getler:

Yes, yes, another pro-life Washington Post subscriber writing to complain about the Post's coverage of the March for Life.

I was expecting to have to write you to ask about the editorial balance between the accomodating coverage of the anti-war rally Saturday (more than 4,800 words of *preview* coverage alone) and the scrimping coverage of the March for Life. I might even have mentioned the headline yesterday making it sound like the pro-life and the pro-abortion rights activities were of equal size and import.

But all of that -- and, practically speaking, it's all old news anyway for the Post -- can be set aside now that I've seen this morning's (Jan. 23) front page.

In a sea of pro-life marchers -- according to Carlye Murphy, "estimated by U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer at 50,000" (the high end of the range he gave for the anti-war march) -- a Post photographer found three screaming pro-abortion rights demonstrators and took their picture. Then someone decided to use that picture, under the title "Anger-filled anniversary," as the front-page, above-the-fold, full-color visual icon of what happened in the streets of Washington yesterday.

This is not balance. This is not perspective. This is not telling a story by conflict.

This is lying.

The people responsible for choosing that picture and those words lied about what happened in Washington yesterday. There is quite simply no way around it.

I would like to think that, as a matter of personal integrity if not personal conviction about the licitness of abortion, there will be resignations, or at least an outcry on the Op-Ed page, in reaction to the mendacity of those who made this decision. I suspect, however, that Post employees will find a way to excuse it.

Let me be clear: My passion for this is due to my belief in the sanctity of human life, but the basis of my objection is my understanding of journalistic integrity. By this act, those responsible have clearly sacrificed their journalistic integrity to their personal opinion. Integrity is not something that can be taken off and put back on whenever the mood strikes, like a chastity belt whose wearer holds the key. They have established what kind of journalists they are; it remains only to observe which causes they
have sold themselves to.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Maybe it's anti-semitism

Last May there was a report on anti-Catholicism in America, leaving some of us comfortable in the sentiment that anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals.

This past Sunday, the Unconventional Wiz reported that anti-Semitism itself is on the rise:
On question after question, researchers found that the proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 who held anti-Semitic views was consistently higher than the percentage of middle-aged Americans who shared those attitudes.
More specifically,
  • 23% of those between 18 and 35 agreed that Jews are a "threat" to the country's "moral character;" 15% of Americans between 45 and 54 agreed.
  • 20% of the younger respondents agrees that Jews "care only about themselves;" 12% of the older respondents agreed.
  • "Nearly a third of all Americans" (as always, care must be taken when statistics are paraphrased) are afraid a Jewish president would put Irsaeli interests ahead of American interests.
  • "Fewer than half" disagreed with the statement that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.
Surveys are tricky, and questions can be biased, but how do you bias a statement that Jews are a threat to the country's moral character enough to get 23% of 18-35 year olds to agree with it?

We Catholics can feel sorry for ourselves over the prejudices we face, but not at the cost of ignoring the lingering, and arguably strengthening, prejudices against Jews.

Somewhere, a dog barked

Well, it's the day before the annual March for Life. No mention in the Post.