When a newspaper or television news outlet decides to spend excess amount of time reporting on a case – usually a criminal case – it’s not uncommon for competitors to follow suit and report on the same case as not to be outdone. It’s a classic snowball effect, and someone like Casey Anthony becomes a household name as a result.
But what happens when something equally, if not far more chilling happens, but the cameras aren’t focused in that direction? Take the cases of Linda Ann Weston and also Kermit Gosnell out of Philadelphia, for example. Weston is accused of kidnapping and holding mentally disabled people in dungeons – for years – to collect their Social Security checks (amongst other crimes). Gosnell operated an unregulated abortion clinic out of Philadelphia for decades, drugging and sometimes killing patients, while delivering babies and shoving scissors into their necks (amongst other crimes). This is Jeffrey Dahmer-level sickness, served on a platter for media outlets to cover and certain to become objects of readers’ attention. But it’s hard to find anything about these cases without setting up a Google News Alert.
Why wouldn’t there be more coverage of these cases, when other things get over-covered? Surely, editors know about them, but make a decision not to send reporters. While they may use budgets and staff shortages as an excuse, this rule gets broken all too often, especially when everyone else is covering the same thing.
I can’t help but view this as incompetence, and even bias, in the news industry.
I wrote this post on Jan. 29, 2013. On April 12, my employer finally decided to cover the Kermit Gosnell trial.
Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, tells the Erik Wemple Blog:
We believe the story is deserving of coverage by our own staff, and we intend to send a reporter for the resumption of the trial next week. In retrospect, we should have sent a reporter sooner.