Kermit Gosnell: Crime, Class and Race

Two years ago, a headline writer wrote this over a story by Lynette Holloway for The Root: “Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder. Both sides of the abortion debate are having a field day with this case. But what happens to poor women of color facing unwanted pregnancies?”

Holloway wrote, “The grisly murders and gruesome discoveries inside Kermit B. Gosnell’s West Philadelphia abortion clinic leave one wondering what would make mostly poor, minority women so desperate that they would utilize his filthy clinic, where body parts of dead fetuses allegedly were stored in jars that lined the shelves of the macabre scene.”

She included this figure: “Overall, African-American women account for 36.4 percent of all pregnancy terminations in the United States, although blacks make up only 13 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Now Gosnell, himself African American, is on trial, and in the last two days the Internet has seen a dramatic rise in commentary asking why the Philadelphia case hasn’t received national media attention.

Obviously, conservatives believe the media is ignoring this story because it’s about abortion, and the lefties who run our media empires hate stories that put abortion in a bad light,” Kevin Drum wrote Friday for Mother Jones. “Alternatively, it could be because it’s a Philadelphia story, and the national media doesn’t usually give a lot of time to local cases like this. Frankly, I don’t know — though I’ll note that even the conservative media didn’t give it a huge amount of coverage until fairly recently, when Gosnell’s trial started. . . .”

Others say the Gosnell story — and it is a horrifying, grisly one — is also a story about race and the media.

When the case broke in 2011, Jill Filipovic, who blogs as “Jill” on the Feministe site, wrote:

“Gosnell’s clinic hadn’t been reviewed by the Department of Health in 15 years. Members of his staff were unlicensed and not properly trained. And Gosnell knew that he could get away with offering sub-par care to women who he thought were less likely to complain — young women, immigrants, poor women and women of color.”

Filipovic quoted Lori Adelman, who wrote in January 2011 on the Grio, “buried deep in articles describing ‘bloodstained furniture’ and ‘jars packed with severed baby feet,’ is a less gory but equally as horrifying insight that, at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, ‘white women from the suburbs were ushered into a separate, slightly cleaner area‘ than Gosnell’s regular clientele, which was comprised primarily of poor minority women, including many immigrants. Gosnell reportedly treated these white suburban clients to a more pleasant and sanitary experience because he believed they were ‘more likely to file complaints’ about substandard care.”

Irin Carmon wrote Friday for Salon, “I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? . . . “

Laura Bassett and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post: Kermit Gosnell Trial Is A ‘Peek Into The World Before Roe v. Wade’: NARAL President Ilyse Hogue 

William Bender, Philadelphia Daily News: Kermit Gosnell’s son can’t stand dad’s name

CNN: Tonight on AC360: Doctor’s ‘House of Horrors’

Jill Filipovic, Feministe: What Kermit Gosnell tells us about late-term abortion (Jan. 20, 2011)

Joshua Gillin, Poynter Institute: Media coverage swells over the lack of media coverage for abortion provider Kermit Gosnell

Patrick Howley, Daily Caller: Black leadership group condemns defense tactics, media coverage in abortion-doctor murder case

David Knowles, Daily News, New York: Former worker testifies that Dr. Kermit Gosnell snipped the spines of moving babies following abortions at Philadelphia clinic

Kirsten Powers, USA Today: Philadelphia abortion clinic horror: Column

Joseph A. Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer: Gosnell intern testifies on teen years at clinic

David Weigel, Slate: Kermit Gosnell: The Alleged Mass-Murderer and the Bored Media

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Washington Post pledges Gosnell coverage

Journalist-Turned-Car Dealer and Other Personal Stories

Cliff Brunt worked for the Associated Press for seven years when Associated Press Sports Editor Terry Taylor told him he would have to transfer to Indianapolis or take a buyout. He couldn’t move, so he took a buyout. Now Blunt is a used car dealer, and this week he offered readers of the Indy Sports Legends website “the top 10 most important things I’ve learned since April 11, 2012,” the fateful day Taylor called him with the news.

Brunt wasn’t the only journalist of color offering a personal story in the last few days. To help inaugurate “Code Switch,” a new NPR site, Eric Deggans, television critic for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, recalled Wednesday how he had to “code switch” between his black boyhood neighborhood in Gary, Ind., and the white-dominated private school he attended outside of it.

‘You guys doing anything today?’ ” Deggans began.

“That might sound like an ordinary, even dull question. But in my old neighborhood — mostly poor, entirely black ’70s-era Gary, Ind. — that kind of question was grounds for serious ridicule. Or worse.

“The problem: I had dared use a word none of my partners ever let pass through their lips, unless they were making fun of a white person: ‘guys.’ . . .”

In collaboration with the Huffington Post, Terrell J. Starr, associate editor at NewsOne, wrote Thursday for Facebook, “I Found the Father I Never Knew I Needed On Facebook.

“Growing up on Detroit’s west side, my neighborhood was rife with gang violence, drug abuse and semi-hopelessness,” Starr wrote. “Manhood was measured by ghetto Darwinism: only the toughest young guns who dared not to fear the pistol-toting bullies, stray bullets or the temptation of the drug game survived.” He had no idea who his father was then, he wrote, “but I knew I wanted him in my life.”

Starr said he “ducked and weaved those travails by doing well in school, participating in after-school sports activities and being a pretty good kid.”

In fact, according to the tagline, “Starr has a bachelor’s degree in English from Philander Smith College and two master’s degrees (M.S. in Editorial Journalism) and (M.A. in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Fulbright Journalism Scholar (Ukraine 2009-2010) and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Georgia 2003-2005). He is an expert in African diasporas in the former Soviet Union and lived in the region for four years. He is pursuing opportunities to write a book on his life.”

Brunt listed these as his 10 most important lessons: 1. “Job titles don’t mean much. . . .” 2. “The journalism business as we knew it is dead. . . .” 3. “There are some good people in journalism. . . .” 4. “I can create a website (with a lot of help).. . .” 5. “I’m not good at selling cars. . . .” 6. “I’m not the only one. . . .” 7. “We’re not missing meals, so I have no right to whine. . . .” 8. “Terry Taylor is a good person. . . .” 9. “My readers and the athletes like my writing, even if it’s not for the AP. . . .” 10. “My wife is my biggest fan. . . .”

R.L.G., Johnson blog, the Economist: How black to be?

J-Professor Tracks Gang Legacy of Central America’s Wars

Donna De Cesare had just walked into the AIDS ward at a public hospital in El Salvador one day in 1989 when a young voice greeted her,” David Gonzalez reported Wednesday for the New York Times’ Lens blog.

” ‘What’s up?’ she recalled hearing. ‘Finally, someone from my country!’

“She was taken aback. The voice was in English, with the rhythmic cadence of Chicano Los Angeles, where the young man had once lived. His name was Franklin Torres. Though he was born in El Salvador, he had fled during its violent civil war to what his mother thought was the safety of Los Angeles. Instead, he found refuge in gangs and drugs. Gangs led to his deportation, and back in El Salvador, drugs would claim his life.

“The unexpected encounter stayed with Ms. De Cesare, who had traveled to Central America to photograph the civil wars wracking the region. She would, in time, document the overlooked legacies of those bloody proxy wars, zeroing in on how witnessing unspeakable violence scarred young minds both in Central America and in the barrios of Los Angeles.

“This month, Ms. De Cesare released ‘Unsettled/Desasosiego’ (University of Texas Press), an urgent and moving work that chronicles those who grew up amid political wars, gang wars or both. It is a look back on lives that were lost, and some who triumphed, during her many years in the region. It is also, for her, a motivation to continue to examine these issues and to push for action through her bilingual Web site, Destiny’s Children.

” ‘We need to consider what we are doing as a society when we abandon so many children,’ said Ms. De Cesare, who is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. ‘We need to see these young people as they truly are — children who have been burdened with so much that is painful from an early age and whose fragile hopes and dreams are being thwarted.’ . . . “

Lizzie Chen, KERA-FM, Dallas: UT’s Donna De Cesare Trains Her Lens On Central America, Children And Civil War (April 5)

Irish Nanny’s Illegal Status Doesn’t Rate Top Billing

The prominence given immigration status in contrasting stories from the Boston Globe illustrate a bias against one group of unauthorized immigrants, but not another, according to the advocacy group Latino Rebels.

Irish nanny Aisling Brady McCarthy has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a one-year-old girl she had been caring for in a Cambridge apartment, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s office said today,” began a story Friday by John R. Ellement.

In the 12th paragraph, readers learn that “Brady, a native of Ireland who has been in the country illegally, faces deportation to Ireland if she is freed from state custody, according to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.”

By contrast, a Globe story by Maria Sacchetti from Sept. 28, 2011, begins, “Scituate police arrested an illegal immigrant from Brazil for motor-vehicle violations three months before he allegedly stabbed his former girlfriend to death in a brutal attack this week, reigniting debate over whether Massachusetts should participate in the federal Secure Communities program.”

Globe editor Brian McGrory did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Latino Rebels also pointed to a 2012 Hill+Knowlton Strategies online survey for the Latino Donor Collaborative that “showed that one-third think that more than half of the country’s Latinos are undocumented and nearly 80% of non-Latino Americans think Latinos are involved in crime and gang activity.”

Hill+Knowlton and the Latino Donor Collaborative tried to interest CNN in exclusively broadcasting the data in May 2012, Latino Rebels said, but CNN said online surveys did not offer the same credibility as those using other methods.

David Iannelli, president, global, of Research+Data Insights, disagrees. In fact, he told Journal-isms Friday by email, “Aside from the approach we take of (using demographically balanced panels, etc.) the methodological benefit of using an online approach for a survey on such a sensitive topic is that it neutralizes the problem of the socially-desirable response bias that tends to occur in telephone interviews where the respondent may offer what they believe is the politically correct response to be seen in a positive light by the interviewer. . . .”

Jacquellena Carrero, NBCLatino: The Immigration Line: Who’s on it and for how long?

Juan González, Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio: Immigration Debate “A Battle Over What America Will Look Like in 21st Century” 

María Hinojosa with Juan Cartagena on “Latino USA,” NPR: The Enforcement Taboo (audio)

María Hinojosa with Reps. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., and  Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., on “Latino USA,” NPR: The Congressional Potluck (audio)

John T. Moore, Ventura County (Calif.) Star: Ridding our news pages of labels

NBC News: NBCUniversal News Group Plans Editorial Initiative Dedicated to Immigration in America

NBC News: NBC News/WSJ Poll: Strong Majority Backs Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants

Rand Paul’s Speech at Howard University Called a Dud

The Republican Party is struggling with its future,” Charles M. Blow wrote Wednesday for the New York Times.

“Will it be a regional, Congressional party fighting a last-gasp battle for a shrinking base in a David and Goliath war against ominously expanding federal government? Or will it become a national, presidential party capable of adapting to a new American reality of diversity and expression in which the government serves an essential function in regulating public safety, providing a safety net and serving as a safeguard against discrimination?

“Senator Rand Paul is trying to find a balance between the two. The same week that a dozen defiant senators threatened to filibuster any new gun control legislation, Paul ventured across Washington to historically black Howard University and gave a speech aimed at outreach and bridge building.

“The man is mulling a presidential run after all.

“The speech was a dud. . . .”

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Conservative Black Hope (April 4)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York Times: He Wears the Mask (April 3)

Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: McConnell should apologize to Judd, others battling mental illness

Charles D. Ellison, Philadelphia Tribune: Black Republicans Lost in GOP Rebranding

John McWhorter, Daily News, New York: Dr. Ben Carson’s bad medicine (April 4)

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Black Doctor Stepped in over His Head (April 3)

Adam Serwer, Mother Jones: Rand Paul Does Not Deserve a Gold Star for Speaking at Howard University

“42″ Film Captures the Hero, but Maybe Not the Human

Whenever it is that an icon passes from being human to being a saint is the point at which it’s probably too late for a good movie,” Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism last year while at the Boston Globe, wrote Thursday for Grantland.

“All you get is the lessons learned and very little of the naturalism or idiosyncrasy or personality that made the person iconic in the first place. Or you get all that courtesy of a great performance, but then there’s no filmmaking or storytelling to support it. You rarely get both acting and an angle, the way you did, say, with Walk the Line and Lincoln. It’s usually that the subjects mean so much to the filmmakers that they can’t bring themselves to take the subjects out of their historical packaging and play with them, lest they lose their value.

“That’s the Jackie Robinson situation. . . .”

Not all shared Morris’ view in reviewing “42,” the Robinson film biography that opened Friday, but many did.

Journalists might have a special interest in the portrayal of Wendell Smith, the legendary African American sportswriter who also helped to desegregate baseball. Smith was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Black Journalists in January. Andre Holland, the actor who plays Smith in the film, was present for the occasion, and La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, now president of the Baseball Writers Association, accepted the award for Smith.

David Germain wrote for the Associated Press, “The story of black baseball writer Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) parallels Robinson’s, but the film burns up a lot of time trying to establish camaraderie between the two that never quite gels.

Zeba Blay, Shadow and Act: Review — ’42′ Is A Well-Intentioned But Watered-Down Telling Of Jackie Robinson’s Story 

Cal Fussman, ESPN: “I Was Allowed To Dream After That” — Henry Aaron

Dana Jennings, New York Times: The Superhero Who Leapt Color Lines

Jonathan Kim, HuffPost BlackVoices: Review: 42 — Which Side of History Are You On?

A. Stacy Long, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: Skeeter Barnes on Jackie Robinson movie: ‘It’s not just a baseball thing’

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Dr. Phil! Help Me Fall Back in Love With Baseball

Eric Metaxas, Religion News Service: Jackie Robinson’s faith missing from ’42′ movie

Wesley Morris, Grantland: Bill Simmons talks to Grantland’s film critic Wesley Morris about the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic ’42′ and discusses why some movie biographies work and why others don’t. (podcast)

Mark Newman, ’42′ movie receiving rave reviews

Chris Oberholtz, Emily Rittman and Dave Jordan, KCTV-TV, Kansas City: KC rolls out red carpet for stars of Jackie Robinson movie ’42′

Rob Parker, the Shadow League: Black People Shouldn’t Waste Jackie Robinson’s Legacy

Duane Rankin, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: ’42′ better get it right … and inspire another generation 

Alyssa Rosenberg and Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress: What ’42′ Misses About Jackie Robinson’s Integration Of Baseball, And
About The Civil Rights Movement

Andrew Schall, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Wendell Smith: The Pittsburgh journalist who made Jackie Robinson mainstream (June 5, 2011)

A. O. Scott, New York Times: That Rookie at First Is in a New Position

Larry Stone, Seattle Times: As Jackie Robinson is celebrated, African-American participation in MLB dwindles

Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports: Looking for next Jackie? Won’t happen

Jason Woullard, the Shadow League: In The Life Of Jackie Robinson: Branch Rickey

Public Broadcasting Called Underfunded for Covering Gun Violence

“The mass shootings last year in Colorado, Wisconsin and Connecticut reawakened Americans to recurring tragedies of gun violence and rekindled a national debate about gun control — one that public radio and television have chronicled and analyzed through ongoing programs and the package of special broadcasts that aired on PBS last month,” Debra Blum wrote this week for, which covers public broadcasting.

But along with news coverage and the occasional specials, pubcasters and documentary producers could be doing much more on the gun-violence issue, observers say, if more funding were available in the field.

” ‘Philanthropy is really sparse on this topic,’ says Vince Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders. ‘There’s some attention paid to it, and maybe a little more now, but it’s not well-resourced.’

“Audiences have already demonstrated their interest in programs dealing with gun violence:

“A two-part radio series examining the crisis of gun violence in one Chicago school, ‘Harper High School,’ proved so popular when it aired on This American Life in February that the show’s distributor Public Radio International is arranging for rebroadcasts on other nonprofit and commercial radio stations. More than 1 million listeners have downloaded the programs from the TAL website, and so many listeners expressed an interest in helping the school that administrators set up an online donation page. . . . “

Natalie Neysa Alund, Oakland Tribune: Memorial service set for former Oakland Tribune freelance photographer gunned down Friday

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: Murder of AmeriCorps volunteer challenges our indifference to killings

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Michelle Obama and community come together for youth

Barry Saunders, News Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Seeing the victims of crime can send a powerful message

Short Takes

The Supreme Court hearing cases this year on same-sex marriage [has] thrust gay rights issues to the forefront again. One dominant voice continues to reflect the perspective of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in news: the white male,” Sherri Williams wrote Wednesday for Quill. She added, “The absence of the voices of people of color, women and transgender people from news stories about LGBT issues implies that they don’t exist, said Daryl C. Hannah, director of media and community partnerships for the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. . . . ”

The Washington Post has hired Alice Rhee, who spent more than 15 years at NBC and MSNBC, as senior producer of shows as it staffs up in preparation for the summer launch of an online politics channel, Michael Calderone reported Friday for the Huffington Post. He cited a Post memo.

Dr. Shelley Stewart is the recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists’ 2013 Community Service Award, NABJ announced on Friday. Dr. Stewart is a broadcast journalist, president and CEO of O2Ideas, and founder of The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation. His “InsideOut” is a 26-minute documentary that presents the stories of [prison] lifers, in their own words, and exposes the lasting and devastating effects that can occur when one drops out of school. It has been viewed in 47 states and Canada.

The American Society of News Editors is teaming with the American Press Institute to hold its Minority Leadership Institute June 23-24 in Washington, coinciding with the annual ASNE convention. The institute provides leadership and management training to 15 mid-level editors and business executives. The program was conceived by ASNE’s Diversity Committee and first conducted in August 2012 at Unity.

With Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network gaining traction with African-American viewers, Bounce TV picking up advertisers on broadcast and Magic Johnson and P. Diddy backing new channels, long-time leader BET isn’t ignoring its rivals,” Jon Lafayette reported Thursday for Broadcasting Cable. Louis Carr, BET’s president of ad sales, “pointed to research on engagement with African-Americans that showed BET was the No. 1 among 400 media brands they were unwilling to give up. BET beat ESPN by 22%, TV One by 41% and OWN by 89%. BET’s Centric network beat OWN by 7%. . . .”

“*Co-host of MSNBC’s daytime show ‘The Cycle’ Touré joined HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill Thursday and defended his network’s all-white primetime lineup,” EURWeb reported. The item added, “But Touré said that within MSNBC’s modern era, there have only been five hosts to fit into three valuable slots — and the current lineup of Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell is ‘brilliant’ and ‘extraordinary.’ ”

While their English-language counterparts have struggled in the ratings so far this year, Univision and Telemundo are headed in the other direction,” Rick Kissell reported Thursday for Variety. “The Spanish-language broadcasters recorded some historic highs in the first quarter, with Univision closing in on NBC in 18-49 and pulling ahead of it in the younger half of the [demographic.] And for the 2012-13 season to date, Telemundo, Univision and its sister network UniMas are the only broadcasters showing any growth in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen. . . .”

More African Americans wear the union label than non-blacks, but the number of union members declined in 2012 compared with the year before,” the NorthStar News Analysis reported Friday. “The University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education reported in 2012 that 13.1 percent of black workers in the United States were union members compared with 11.0 percent of non-black workers. . . .”

The new president and c.e.o. of dual licensee Lakeshore Public Media in Merrillville, Ind., is James Muhammad, currently director of radio services for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. He begins work in his new post May 20,” Dru Sefton reported for on Thursday.

Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, writes about technology writer Jenna Wortham’s recent admission that she shares passwords for Netflix,” Chris Roush wrote Thursday for Talking Biz News. Sullivan quoted Jeff Sommer, an assistant business editor who worked with Wortham to conceive the column idea. “The column is supposed to be experimental, and Jenna is deliberately on the frontier – that’s the whole point. It’s wonderful to have someone who’s ahead of the curve. . . .”

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press was honored Thursday “for bridge-building journalism that has helped Manitobans better understand the province’s Muslim community,” the paper reported. “Free Press diversity reporter Carol Sanders and faith writer Brenda Suderman received the Ansar and Ihsan Awards from the Islamic Social Services Association Inc.” It continued, “Sanders used her speech to thank the Islamic community for their patience and understanding in the 104 stories she has written since 2004 that involved questions about their religion. . . .”

In Venezuela, “The late President Hugo Chavez appeared constantly on TV, and attacked media that criticized him,” Juan Forero reported Friday for NPR. “Now, only one opposition TV station remains. The left-leaning president called Globovision part of a right-wing conspiracy. Though Chavez is gone, the station’s end may also be near.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday it “welcomes Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s announcement that he will withdraw legal complaints against journalists who ‘spread wrong information.’ The announcement was posted on the presidency’s Twitter account and confirmed by Presidential spokesman Ehab Fahmy. . . .”

In a return to old tactics, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in Sudan have resumed strict pre-publication censorship,” the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Friday.

In Tunisia, Free Arabs, a new secular-minded website, “includes skits poking fun at Islamic legal opinions by dramatizing them far beyond their logical conclusions,” John Thorne reported Wednesday for the Christian Science Monitor. He added, “Launched last month by Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi, it aims to sustain the spirit of intelligent irreverence that helped drive the Arab Spring. . . .”

The Nigeria National Committee of the International Press Institute declared Friday, “Detaining journalists while investigating their alleged professional infractions is a throw back to the best forgotten dark days of dictatorial regimes. The courts, not detention centres, are the proper place to take alleged offenders. . . .”

Reporting on Ecuador, Reporters Without Borders said Friday it “hopes for quick results from the investigation into journalist Fausto Valdivieso’s murder yesterday in Guayaquil. The motive is not yet known but press reports quoted local sources as saying he had been the target of a murder attempt 24 hours earlier and had received threats. . . .”

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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