Local journalists tell stories national media won’t

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A lot of people think that the pinnacle of journalism is working for a publication with national exposure, like The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or The Chicago Tribune. These are the flashy, high-profile jobs that put you in line for the Pulitzers and get you invitations to pontificate on the cable news networks.

While there is a definite cachet in being able to put “of The New York Times” after your name, some of the greatest writers and investigative journalists toil away at small, local papers in parts of the country that we once called “flyover.”

First, a shout-out to the great Salena Zito. A Pennsylvania native who has attained well-deserved national recognition, Zito rose to prominence during the 2016 election cycle when she became what some called the “Trump whisperer,” a woman capable of explaining the peculiarities of the Trump voter to an otherwise incredulous audience of institutional Republicans and horrified Democrats. Zito understands people, and she understands how important it is that their lives and their concerns be accurately represented in the journalism they read.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens in national publications, which often distort the facts of particular cases to advance a larger narrative.

That happened recently in Norfolk, Nebraska. The other day, I got an email from editor Jerry Guenther at the Norfolk Daily News asking me to take a look at a local story that had gotten national attention. He wanted my honest opinion on the way the national media, including CNN, Reuters, MSNBC, and The Guardian were framing the issues. And because it was about abortion, and because I have some experience with how those stories are being depicted by national outlets, I agreed.

In June of this year, before the decision in Dobbs came down from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a 17-year-old Nebraska girl and the 41-year-old woman who assisted her were charged with criminal acts in connection with disposing of the remains of a baby. As the facts began to emerge, it appears that the older woman obtained pills for the pregnant teen, who chemically aborted the fetus. The initial diagnosis was a stillbirth, but further investigation indicated that the death was caused by the pills.

At the time of its death, which was allegedly caused by the chemical abortion, the unborn child was 29 weeks old. That means that it was beyond the period that Nebraska law permits abortions, and medical records indicate that the child itself was healthy with no pre-natal anomalies. Had this baby been brought to term, it would have survived.

This is a baby that was less than two months away from being born. This is a baby that could have been adopted out, since the young mother obviously was unprepared to become a parent. This is a baby that, by all accounts, was healthy and displayed none of the medical conditions which would have justified a later-term abortion. This is a baby that was thrown in a ditch and abandoned.

And of course, the national media have twisted the narrative into a pro-abortion message, suggesting that the “desperation” of the young pregnant woman is a reason that abortion should remain safe and legal. They’re glossing over the fact that the woman knew she was pregnant months before she sought the abortion and also knew that her unborn child was perfectly healthy.

They’re also glossing over the fact that the adult was the teen’s mother, that she was an unlicensed abortionist, that she undertook the act after knowing the baby (her grandchild) was healthy, and that she assisted her daughter and a 22-year-old male in disposing of the remains. The additional horror of the situation is that the trio attempted to burn the baby’s body before burying it.

There are too many details to cover in this piece, many of which chill the blood. The thing that is most chilling, however, is the suggestion that the real culprit is a society that prevents women from getting abortions whenever they want them, as opposed to people who look upon human life as disposable trash.

The reporter who authored most of the local stories, Austin Svehla, has done a magnificent job in presenting the facts in an honest and dispassionate manner. He should be applauded. Sadly, he is being vilified in some quarters because of his work.

Svehla, like many of the local journalists who don’t get asked to pontificate on CNN and MSNBC, are the true professionals, who attempt to shine an honest light on the things we’d rather ignore.

He, Salena Zito and those like them deserve far more than Pulitzers. They deserve our gratitude and respect.

Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]