On March 24, representatives of several Chicago area pro-life organizations met with Chicago Tribune public editor Don Wycliff and members of the Tribune staff in a beautiful paneled conference room in the gothic Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue.
The Tribune personnel included columnists John Kass and Steve Chapman, as well as deputy editorial page editor John McCormick, senior editor for standards Margaret Holt, and women’s health issues contributor Judy Peres.
The pro-life contingent was made up of Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office Director Mary-Louise Kurey, Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life Bill Beckman, Abortion-Breast Cancer Coalition representative Arlene Sawicki, Concerned Women for America representative Jill Stanek and Directors of the Pro-Life Action League Joe and Ann Scheidler.
Addressing Coverage of Pro-Life Issues
After general introductions, Mr. Wycliff asked us to express our particular concerns and reasons for requesting a meeting. Arlene Sawicki, who arranged the meeting, explained that our main purpose was to foster a better relationship between those in the communications field and us in the pro-life movement, so that when our activities are presented in the Tribune, reporters and columnists will know whom to call to get accurate information.
Judy Peres had recently written an article on a local pharmacist who refused to dispense the emergency contraceptive pill. Her article had stated that the birth control pill was quite similar in action to the Plan B and other “emergency contraceptives.” A reader had emailed her to object to that statement. It was clear that Peres had a very good understanding of how the pill works and why we would oppose it.
Steve Chapman raised the question of whether the pro-life movement is in agreement on the contraception issue. Joe Scheidler responded that there is not agreement on the issue, but that the League was planning a seminar for pro-life leaders on that very topic. Chapman perked up and wanted to know if press would be invited.
Getting Pro-Life Voices into the Press
Arlene Sawicki asked Mr. Wycliff if he would assign a Tribune liaison for pro-life issues. Wycliff responded that he would be that person.
John McCormick explained that the Tribune receives thousands of letters and makes an effort to print a representational balance of letters to the editor, and steers away from letters from organizations, which emphasizes the importance of individual pro-lifers sitting down and writing a letter to the editor when life issues need to be addressed.
Ann Scheidler asked about the possibility of submitting op-ed articles. McCormick and Wycliff said anyone can submit an article, but it must be timely—related to a current issue—and no longer than 800 words.
All parties to the meeting found it quite productive. The pro-life representatives were pleased to discover that we were of one mind on every topic that was discussed.