Stupid Girls

Monday, May 03, 2004

What Women's March?

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Hard to Find Women's March on Television News
May 3, 2004

On Sunday, April 25, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of
Washington, D.C. to demonstrate for women's reproductive rights. �Crowd
estimates ranged from 500,000 to 1.15 million, but it was clear that the
March for Women's Lives was one of the largest demonstrations in the
capital's history-- and perhaps the largest ever. �One might have
expected, then, to see extensive coverage on national television-- but a
look at both network and cable news during the days surrounding the march
turned up remarkably few reports.

A Nexis search of the week surrounding the women's march found a total of
six stories from the broadcast networks (not counting incidental mentions
of the march): �CBS ran one story the day of the march and two the next
morning; NBC ran two stories and ABC only one, all on April 25.

�CNN, as a
24-hour cable news outlet, gave more extensive coverage to the event,
running several reports on Sunday.

But even CNN failed to treat the march
as the historic occasion that it was, running just a small handful of
brief march-related stories on Saturday and Monday.

Other cable news outlets focused not on the march itself but on abortion
opponents, a few hundred of whom held a counter-protest at the march. �Of
three Fox News stories found on Nexis related to the march, two focused on
anti-abortion activists (Special Report with Brit Hume, Hannity & Colmes,
4/22/04). �Special Report examined anti-abortion opposition to the
National Education Association's endorsement of the march-- a story that
MSNBC also covered in that network's only march report found in the Nexis
database. �(Fox and MSNBC do not transcribe their news coverage as
thoroughly as CNN does, so the amount of coverage on the three cable
channels cannot be compared.)

To put the women's march coverage in perspective, FAIR conducted a similar
Nexis search of the week surrounding the Promise Keepers march in 1997.

The Promise Keepers, an evangelical men's organization that has been
widely accused of promoting misogyny and homophobia, drew an estimated
480,000-750,000 demonstrators to Washington-- roughly three-quarters the
size of the women's march. �Despite its somewhat smaller size, the Promise
Keepers received much more media attention: �Stories began appearing on
network news three days before the march and continued for two days
afterward, with a total of 19 stories between the three networks-- more
than three times the coverage the networks devoted to the women's march.

Was the Promise Keepers march three times more newsworthy than the March
for Women's Lives?

Why such little coverage? �Women's issues routinely get short shrift in
the media, and during this election year, news outlets found even more
reason to discount women's voices.
�NBC Nightly News reporter Jeannie Ohm
asked (4/25/04), "But just how big a factor will abortion rights have in
the November election?... Political analysts say it's the economy and
jobs, war in Iraq, homeland security and health care that will have more
of an impact with undecided voters." �CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano
sounded a similar note (4/25/04): "This election year, each group hopes to
spark renewed interest, enough to have an impact at the ballot box. But
political analysts say more than three decades after Roe v. Wade, most
voters have already made up their minds."

A record-breaking number of people-- mostly women-- marched on Washington
to demonstrate their commitment to women's rights and their
dissatisfaction with Bush's record on women's issues. �By minimizing
coverage of the event and reducing women's rights to a low-ranking concern
in the presidential horse race, television news stifled critical public
dialogue on women's rights and health, and relegated women and their
concerns to the sidelines.

ACTION: Please let the networks know that you were disappointed by the
scant coverage given to the historic March for Women's Lives.


ABC World News Tonight
Phone: 212-456-4040

CBS Evening News
Phone: 212-975-3691

NBC Nightly News
Phone: 212-664-4971