Poynter Journalism Scholars Criticize Paper for Publishing Gun Owners’ Addresses
December 27, 2012 - 2:41 pm
The Journal News, Tompkins wrote, “is taking heat for starting a gunfight just because it could.”
Tompkins contacted one of the reporters of the story for comment on how they reached the conclusion that the story was appropriate, but was just given the stock statement from publisher Janet Hasson.
“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular,” Hasson said. “One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”
“Timeliness is not reason enough to publish this information,” Tompkins responded, and journalists “should weigh the public’s right to know against the potential harm publishing could cause” when disclosing private information.
The president of the National Rifle Association decried the paper for singling out lawful firearms permit holders, but for letting criminals know which households are unarmed.
“Most guns that are used illegally in this country are either bought on the black market or they are stolen. So if you’re a criminal looking for a gun, you’ve just been given a map to where you can find some,” David Keene said today on CNN.
“Secondly on the other side, it also tells you who isn’t armed. And therefore, if you’re not seeking a gun, but you’re seeking television sets and the like through burglary, you know where to go.”