Los Angeles Times Takes Pro-Abortion News Bias Too Far in Opera Review

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Los Angeles Times Takes Pro-Abortion News Bias Too Far in Opera Review

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Editor
March 6, 2004

Los Angeles, CA (LifeNews.com) — A biased editorial policy on abortion at the Los Angeles Times was taken too far when an entertainment section’s review of Richard Strauss’ opera "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" was called "an incomparably glorious and goofy anti-abortion paean."

"Its about children who aren’t born yet screaming to be born — not abortion," said Mark Swed, the Times music critic who wrote the review as a "pro-life" performance, referring to its celebratory depiction of life. "Somebody who didn’t quite get it got a little bit too politically correct … and we had a little breakdown in communications."

The play, translated as "The Woman Without a Shadow" in English, is about a half-human, half-divine woman who lacks a shadow, considered a symbol of fertility, and seeks one to save her husband from turning to stone.

A copy editor had followed a Times’ policy to replace all references to "pro-life" with "anti-abortion," without considering the context of the statement. The change implied a bent on the abortion issue either in the play or in the reviewer’s interpretation thereof — an idea that Swed did not want conveyed in a piece bearing his name.

A correction issued by the newspaper only made matters worse. The following day, a correction read:

"A review of Los Angeles Opera’s ‘Die Frau Ohne Schatten’ in Tuesday’s Calendar section incorrectly characterized the work as ‘anti-abortion.’ In fact, there is no issue of abortion in the opera, which extols procreation."

Swed again demanded a correction, for now it appeared that he had mischaracterized the opera – a mistake that could affect his reputation as a critic.

Another correction was made the next day to exonerate Swed, stating, "As the correction should have made clear, the lead paragraph submitted by the reviewer was incorrectly changed to include the term ‘anti-abortion.’"

"Every editor I talked to felt that this shouldn’t have happened," said Swed. "This was just one person who didn’t quite get it going too much by the rule book. It’s a bit of a tempest in a tea pot."

Swed was satisfied, but the comedy of errors continued. The LA Observer reported that Jamie Gold, the Times’ reader representative, sent a memo to reporters criticizing their violation of another policy — "Corrections will not assign blame."

"The Times’ policy is that corrections simply correct the misinformation without assigning blame. The thinking is that readers don’t care who made the mistake," reads Gold’s memo. "Corrections should not say if it was an editing error or a reporting error, and should not imply fault to a wire service by mentioning it in the correction."

Last September the Chicago Tribune was criticized for changing an editorial by Bill Beckman, executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee, replacing every instance of "pro-life" with "anti-abortion."