Thursday, December 27, 2012

Westchester | Where the gun story went wrong: 'paper was not aggressive enough in its reporting'

In a post today, the Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins says the problem with The Journal News' disclosing names and addresses of gun permit holders wasn't that the paper was too aggressive.

"The problem is that the paper was not aggressive enough in its reporting to justify invading the privacy of people who legally own handguns in two counties it serves,'' he says.

The paper published the information on Saturday in a searchable map and accompanying story for Westchester and Rockland counties in suburban New York City. Since then, the paper has been mostly criticized for invading the privacy of private citizens and putting them at risk. The paper obtained the information under state open-records laws.

Tompkins offered examples of better ways to make use of gun permit information, including:
  • If journalists could show flaws in the gun permitting system, that would be newsworthy. Or, for example, if gun owners were exempted from permits because of political connections, then journalists could better justify the privacy invasion.
  • If the data showed the relationship between the number of permits issued and the crime rates, that serves a public purpose. You would have to also look at income, population density, housing patterns, policing policies and more to really understand what is going on and why.
Since the information was published, a New York state senator has said he will introduce legislation to make gun permit data exempt from state open-records laws.

28 comments:

  1. The problem with those very reasonable and productive topics is that they require effort, manpower and balanced reporting far beyond just filing a FOIA request for some electronic files and then tweaking them a little and throwing them out there under the guise of "public service journalism."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fucking lame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ben Bradlee.

      Delete
  3. This is a completely bungled operation. Stupidity at its apex. A bunch of data -- published merely because they had the legal right -- with ZERO EFFORT and ZERO INVESTMENT in the REASONS why this map/list/chart would have ANY importance to peoples' lives. No cross-checking of names vs. lists of felons or other convicted criminals. None. No analysis of whether there are any problems with the permitting system, no comparison to crime rates, no background. NO MEAT. NO THINKING. A total embarrassment. I would not want to work for a newspaper with leadership this stupid, cheap and lazy. What is the OPPOSITE of the Pulitzer Prize?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A GCI President's Ring.

      Delete
    2. HA HA HAH, 6:13AM, PERFECT response!
      The national disgust at this stunt by amateur-hour Gannett managers in Westchester is loud and clear.
      Just goes to show what happens when you run off the best and brightest at your company in a botched attempt to cut costs.
      Expect more of this in the future from this pathetic company.

      Signed,
      A Pulitzer finalist (NOT at a Gannett rag)

      Delete
    3. Pulitzer dude, that only means you didn't win. Jack Kelley was a Pulitzer finalist, for crying out loud.

      Delete
  4. They should publish a map of all their subscribers. Oh wait, that's not public information, you have to pay them to see that information. A cross-reference of the identified gun owners and the subscription cancelations over the past week would be a newsworthy story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice job. Give the crooks all the info they need to bypass any possible threats to their criminal ventures. They not only gave out all the addresses to gun permit holders, they gave out the addresses of all those who DON'T have one. Another well thought out reporting job.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think the comment, "No thinking," sums it up nicely. Not just for this, ahem, "news project" but for the vast majority of what gets produced from Gannett properties these days. But, then again, the company is simply reaping what it has sown at this point.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is reminiscent of when the Cincinnati Enquirer published the names and addresses of the jurors in the trial for the Marcus Fiesel murder. It wasn't illegal to publish either list. However, it simply doesn't make it right, wise or ethical. I had no subscription to cancel when the juror list was published, but, I have been boycotting one of their biggest advertisers - Kroger - since that juror list was published. If you are disgusted with the choice that the Journal News made in publishing this list, pick a large advertiser and let them know you will no longer be doing business with their company because it funds this sort of rubbish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow 3:21 you are doing a great job of reinventing history. You make it sound like these kinds of choices are new to the industry. Pleeeease. I've got one word for you, "Rosebud!" Yesterday was no different than today. Your pals of the past have ALWAYS looked at their readers with elitist distain.

      Delete
    2. This wasn't "reinventing" history. It was "recalling" history. To have "reinvented" would mean it was made up. It was not, it happened.

      Delete
  8. RE: 3:31 PM

    AMEN!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OOPS, I meant 3:21 PM ...

      Delete
  9. Could there be legal recourse for this? If a home was robbed because there is a "known" gun OR if a house is robbed because an assumption is made that there is no gun/defense - - OR - - WORSE, a person or family is harmed, could the Journal News be held responsible either criminally or civilly, for providing this information?

    Sure the information is available under open records laws but if a criminal asked for and received it, we would KNOW who had received it. What the Journal News has done is make it public which is completely different.

    I've heard of bartenders and homeowners in trouble because they served someone too much. Couldn't the same pretense or argument be used here if something goes horribly wrong?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While perhaps unlikely to succeed, a claim certainly can be made that the FOI request was fraudulent (since its sole purpose was to harass innocent private citizens, not to hold government accountable, as contemplated by the FOI law), and furthermore was made with a reckless disregard for the likely harm.

      Delete
    2. A FOI request can't be fraudulent unless the person or entity making the request is deceptive about their identity.

      Stop spreading lies.

      Delete
    3. You're perfectly free to put forward that defense. The fact remains that the law was subverted, and the information was obtained under false pretenses, for nefarious purposes, and with reckless disregard.

      Delete
    4. 11:43, all of that is B.S. No subversion, no false pretenses, no nefarious purposes, no reckless disregard.

      Stop spreading lies.

      Delete
    5. First of all, B.S. is hardly an impediment to legal action.

      More importantly, while your position may or may not prevail in a court of law, it fails miserably in the court of public opinion.

      Stop denying reality.

      Delete
  10. 12:50: A difference of opinion does not constitute a lie. While I can not speak to false pretenses, both nefarious pretenses and reckless disregard (in my opinion) apply.

    AND, in my experience, bullies are those that attempt to make their OPINIONS sound like facts then veil those opinions with an order.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not a difference of opinion. Your opinion is false. Your belief has nothing to do with the actual law.

      If you don't like the orders, then stop spreading lies. Simple as that.

      Delete
  11. Publish hunting license holders. Publish drivers license holders. Publish septic tank permit holders. Publish hot water heater permits. Just have a whipped up story saying your neighbor hunts, or your neighbor has a longer leach line than you do. Makes about as much sense. The idiots won, however, they can now boast to the mothership they got a big spike in page views. An old grouch of an editor told me once, doesn't matter what they say, as long as they are talking about you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lansing did this a few years back, with the listing of state employees and their salaries. Little context...and a lot of pissed-off now-former subscribers.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Gannett's policy of tying editors' bonuses to, among other things, nominally watchdog projects, coupled with cutting staffs by two-thirds and to publishers and corporate-level executives often not being journalists, or good journalists frankly, encourages such careless decisions. Always has, always will. Publishing some public record or database without a real story attached and in context isn't reporting. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but don't glorify it by calling it journalism. This is typical of a company that doesn't value its employees, that relies on gimmicks and marketing rather than the actual value of the work and talent of its people. Nothing new here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They don't care about journalism. Don't kid yourself. They care about clicks for ads. That's it. Database journalism is popular because it's relatively cheap and easy -- the way this company does it anyway. And because the database will continue to attract clicks for days, weeks, months. The rest really doesn't matter,

      Delete

Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.