A couple of decades ago, I read a novel about the news business.
This novel had a TV News anchor as a central character. It includes lots of vignettes about life inside a TV News room, interactions between politicians and reporters, and the interactions between political power-brokers and low-level criminals.*
In an early scene, the anchorman sees his father preaching against abortion at a political rally. The Governor is conspicuously pro-abortion. Somehow, the event turns from a disturbance into a fight. And the TV News anchor has to watch his own father apprehended and escorted away by police while he reports the event...
Shortly afterwards, the anchorman finds out that his father has died unexpectedly.
While dealing with the aftermath of both these events, he stumbles across a chain of seemingly-unrelated pieces of evidence. It points to potential medical malpractice at a clinic run in the city. The malpractice apparently resulted in the death of at least one poor teenaged woman. And in his father's files, the news anchor discovers evidence that indicates a cover-up. Another teenaged woman had died. The headline-grabbing story about the death of the Governor's daughter the previous year may have also been a cover-up.
The reason for the cover-up? Both young women had gotten an abortion at that clinic. And the political powers of the region didn't want to investigate that clinic.
Because the Governor doesn't want the public to know that his daughter sought an abortion. (Let alone an abortion in which she went, under an alias, to a clinic in the poor part of town.) And any investigation of the clinic would give too much ammunition to the political opponents of abortion.
After reading it, I thought it a compelling story. The questions of truth, news reporting, political machinations, and dirty tricks were valuable. The core plot was intriguing, but I judged it unlikely.
Until I learned (actually, re-learned) the story of Kermit Gosnell.
I first heard his name in January, 2011. A grand-jury had issued a report, condemning the doctor, his low-hygiene methods, and State inspectors who had stopped inspections at abortion clinics.
Then the story slept. Through an entire election cycle, in which birth-control was a major subject.**
Now, the story lives again. Because the doctor is going to trial. And some reporters are shocked to discover it. Some weren't even aware of the case until this weekend. And some insisted that it was a local crime, not worthy of national political attention.
Let's see...a doctor performs abortions in conditions which are highly unsanitary. Many poor, minority women are harmed by his deeds. Government officials decided to stop inspections. They did not begin inspections, even after news about conditions in the clinic reached the ears of the officials in question.
And State law about late-term abortions is violated. The technical distinction between fetus (not delivered yet) and baby was ignored, and some babies were delivered to be killed.
And it's a local story, not a national one?
*The novel also informs us that the main character grew up in a Pentecostal church, has fallen away from the faith...and starts experiences visions and hearing things that might be messages from God.
Hence the title, Prophet.
These experiences help trigger the investigation, but most of the information that develops is discovered through more prosaic forms of research. Sources are pursued, questions asked, chains of evidence developed,a clandestine copy of a 911 tape is sourced, etc.
Importantly to the main character, the experience of hearing from God brings him to a path of personal repentance, and rebuilding of strained and broken relationships with family members.
**They told me that if I voted for Romney, I'd learn of women dying while seeking abortions in unsanitary conditions...
They didn't tell me that it had already happened, before I voted for him.