Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why Doesn’t The March for Life Grab Headlines?

This year, I sense pro-lifers are beyond caring about the lack of headlines. They’ve bitched about it for long that it feels like a complete waste of breath at this point.
But I think it’s a good topic to explore.

I don’t want this post to be seen as critical of the people who organize the March for Life. It’s a damned hard job and they do so much with so little and they do it very well, considering that they’ve organized the largest annual protest on the Hill.But if we are interested in getting into the media, then we have to put some thought into why we’re not getting any.

And let’s get one thing out of the way. It’s true that political bias does have a role to play in this. But ultimately what media executives are looking to do is get people to pay attention to sell advertising. If pro-lifers do something to get that attention, they don’t care if it goes counter to their political beliefs, they need to make money.

Have you ever thought about compels editors to choose one story over another when they make up the day’s headlines?

Here are some characteristics I have detected that make news stories “interesting” and how the March for Life can improve.

Interesting Visuals:

Last year, the March for Life made some headlines because Femen managed to make it to the podium, and the visual was a half-naked woman next to the primate of Canada.
In other years, the March for Life’s biggest visual is 20 000 people on Parliament Hill and a bunch of people holding signs.\

Those are not very interesting visuals. If we ever hope to make it into the headlines, we need to think about providing the media with something to photograph and film so they have something interesting for their viewers to look at. What kind of visuals? Think theatrically. A big float. Dancers. A marching band. Streamers, balloons, confetti, empty strollers, art work. Something other than a crowd and signs.


This might strike you as paradoxical. Abortion is inherently controversial. True. It’s an inherently controversial topic that few people are interested in.

The controversy I’m thinking about is not about principles, but between interests. So for instance, if we could dig up a very controversial fact and present it at the March for Life. For instance: Last year, 500 elective third-trimester abortions took place in Canada, and 50 of those babies were born alive and left to die (I completely made that up as an example). Wow! Awesome headline. You just gave the journalists some meat for their story. It now requires a follow-up question to feminist groups and possibly the medical association. Is it true? What do you think of this? How do you defend it?
See how controversy works? It gets journalists thinking and working.

Relevance to other political stories of interest

There was a little bit of that because there was some attention paid to the euthanasia issue. But the March for Life has always been primarily a fetal rights event.

This year there is an election. If there was something we could have leveraged to make either one of the three main federal political leaders look bad—Harper, Trudeau, or Mulcair, that could have generated a story.

Anything transgressive

Anytime there is a major violation of laws or mores, that draws people’s attention. That’s why the 4-20 event which calls for the legalization of marijuana gets attention because in our culture, marijuana is not something one smokes in  a large crowd. And people like to look down on potheads.

Now of course we don’t want to riot or hurt anyone. But maybe we might want to think in terms of doing something “we’re not supposed to do.” This is a bit more difficult for us because pro-lifers tend to be law-abiding, conventional people. But one should keep it in mind when thinking about how to get headlines.


This year’s March for Life looks like every other March for Life we’ve had. You can almost use fill-in-the-blank sheet to write the story:

Today, _(number)__ people protested at the March for Life calling for the criminalization of abortion. _(number)_ MP’s spoke,  (number)___ bishops spoke, the RCMP estimated the crowd to be  (number)____ people.

What if we had gotten Justin Bieber to speak at the March for Life? (And yes, there are reasons not to have him here, but I’m just throwing this out as an example). That would have grabbed journalists’ attention. It would’ve been different.

Or what if we had had a small skit using papier-mache costumes. We would give something for journalists to report.

When you think of the elements that create news headlines, the March for Life leaves something to be desired. If we’re interested in making headlines and getting our message out beyond Parliament Hill, we should really think about how our event can fulfill some of these criteria and make our event a reportable story for journalists.