Washington Post’s own ombudsman criticizes paper’s March for Life coverage

Ombudsman Patrick Pexton says that the Washington Post gave an “incomplete picture” of the March for Life in both its print story and online photo gallery.
Mon Jan 30, 2012 - 12:11 pm EST

January 30, 2012 ( – After receiving letters from “antiabortion readers” complaining about his paper’s coverage of the March for Life, the Washington Post’s ombudsman has penned a column agreeing with many of their criticisms.


Ombudsman Patrick Pexton says that the Washington Post gave an “incomplete picture” of the March for Life in both its print story and online photo gallery.

Pexton writes that the Post “fell down” in its coverage of the March by failing to include any photos in the gallery that conveyed the magnitude or the “festiveness” of the pro-life crowd, instead focusing on the confrontations between a small group of pro-abortion counter protesters and passing pro-lifers on the steps of the Supreme Court.

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The Post gallery became a leading target of pro-life outrage with mainstream media coverage of the March last week, as it consisted mainly of photos of pro-lifers angrily pointing fingers or praying “at” the pro-abortion protesters, clutching rosary beads and religious iconography, or yelling. Pexton points out that eight out of ten photos were taken in front of the Supreme Court, where the pro-abortion protesters congregated.

“Emotional shots make better photos, yes,” writes Pexton, “but I would have chosen more from the broad expanse of the rally, and at least one photo showing a lot of cheerful, festive people, which is what I see at most demonstrations that I have covered over the years, regardless of the issue at hand.”

The ombudsman writes, however, that the Post’s Director of Photography Michel du Cille disagrees with the criticisms of pro-lifers. “We can never please this crowd. We try for fairness to show both sides,” du Cille told Pexton.

Pexton also took issue with the print article about the March, observing that while it gave a figure for the number of Catholic youth who attended events at the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory (17,000), it failed to relate that the crowd at the actual March far exceeded the crowd of 17,000.

Vernon Loeb, Post Local editor, told Pexton, “In retrospect I wish we had given readers a better sense of the overall magnitude of the march. . .it was far larger than 17,000.”


Pexton also criticized the Post’s story for describing the beliefs of pro-lifers as “antiabortion ideology,” observing that the term “ideology” has “become freighted with negative baggage.”

The Post’s corrective article marks the second time in a week that a major mainstream news outlet has corrected its coverage of the March. Last week, after being deluged with negative comments, CBS Washington added a number of crowd shots to its March for Life gallery that had shown only the small group of pro-abortion counter protesters.

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