Social Media Vs. The Mainstream Media in the Kermit Gosnell Case

Kermit GosnellDepending on how you get your news, you may or may not have heard of Kermit Gosnell; an abortion provider from Philadelphia currently standing trial for the murders of one woman and seven babies who were killed during abortion procedures at his clinic.

If you have heard of Kermit Gosnell, chances are pretty good that you get at least some of your news from social media. Since the trial began on March 18th the only news outlets to regularly cover the Gosnell murder trial have been Fox News and local Philadelphia news outlets. Fox News contributor and USA Today columnist Kristen Powers also wrote a piece for the USA Today, detailing why this story should be front page news. It has all the earmarks of a front page news story:

  • racism
  • murder
  • lack of government oversight
  • exploitation of women
  • a grand jury reviewing the site in question in hazmat suits
  • fraud
  • illegal drug sales

Any one of these would have ordinarily made the story front page news, but not in this case. The rest of the mainstream media has been virtually silent. This silence from mainstream media began a firestorm of activity on social media. Concerned groups first flooded Facebook with post after post about the story, wondering why it wasn’t being covered. As the trial went on for several weeks and there was still no coverage, social media users started a Tweetfest using the hashtag #gosnell to try and raise awareness about the trial, with the hope of getting the mainstream media to cover it.

Seats reserved for press at Gosnell Trial (JD Mullane/

Seats reserved for press at Gosnell Trial (JD Mullane/

The first round of the Tweetfest was last Friday. Twitter users used the hashtag #Gosnell over 600,000 times that day, and were able to get the hashtag trending. Many mainstream news outlets noticed and began coverage. Legal Insurrection‘s Matthew Knee comments:

“Last week, conservatives flooded Twitter to demand that the mainstream media cover the Dr. Kermit Gosnell infanticide trial. They saw rapid success, causing mainstream media coverage of the Gosnell trial to triple and non-Twitter social media and web/blog coverage to quadruple from Thursday to Friday. Additionally, Gosnell was tweeted about twice as much as President Obama on Friday, and sustained an advantage through Saturday.”


CNN’s Anderson Cooper did a 16 minute block on the trial, beginning with the statement that he had never heard of Kermitt Gosnell until he saw it come through on his Twitter feed. Until this tweetfest, all other major mainstream news organizations had reported as follows:

  • NBC- 0 reports
  • CBS – 0 reports
  • ABC – 0 reports
  • MSNBC – 0 reports

Other media outlets have stepped up to what amounted to a challenge from social media users to cover the story. CBS News finally reported on it both online and on television. Their report is very thorough and details the facts of the case. A mea culpa from Megan MCardle of The Daily Beast details the trial, and why she didn’t originally cover it.

Using social media to force the mainstream media to cover a story is a new tactic for Conservatives, who were mainly behind this push for coverage. In the past, Liberals have been more active in social media and have used it to their advantage to a greater extent. This event may mark the beginning of Conservatives really utilizing social media. Conservatives have been quick to utilize other forms of communications, such as radio to get their message out, but have fallen behind the curve compared to Liberals when it comes to social media.

There is another social media push happening today to try and really ensure that the public is informed about the Gosnell trial. Concerned social media users plan to target sympathetic politicians and celebrities to help get the word out and keep #gosnell trending for the duration of the trial.Screen_Shot_2013-04-17_at_12.23.10_PM-640x236

Have you seen this murder trial covered? If so, where have you gotten the most information? Social media or mainstream media?

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