Someone recently put me on a Twitter list titled "Jews." Even though I'm not Jewish, people building lists of Jews just makes me nervous.
Lists in general make nervous. So I can't imagine what the folks at the Journal-News (Gannett's paper for the Lower Hudson area of New York) were thinking when they published a detailed map showing which people own which type of guns registered to which addresses in Westchester County.
My first thought was that this was a huge disservice to those residents who don't own guns -- now criminals know which houses to rob with low resistance.
But what a bizarre thing to map -- as if law-abiding gun owners are a threat of which to be wary. The story attempting to explain why they're exposing this information begins with the news that a mentally ill man had an arsenal of weapons and shot a neighbor in the head without provocation. Ergo, here's a list of all the law-abiding gun owners.
A Reason reader brought it to that magazine's attention with the note that the map "is why you should acquire all of your firearms illegally." Sounds about right.
The Roanoke Times (VA) published a list of legal gun owners a few years ago and within hours had to pull the database. Readers decided turnabout was fair play and published the personal information of the editorial writer who had mocked them for worrying about the King of England trying to invade their home. Liberal media watchdogs such as the Poynter Institute questioned the wisdom of publishing the list.
Readers in Westchester County have gone ahead and published the personal information of the reporters and editors involved in publishing the story.
Obviously the government requires gun owners to register. This public information is, well, public. But just because something is required by the government and is public doesn't mean civil society is aided by making it public.
And while, as a reporter, I understand that there is no thing such as complete objectivity when covering any news event, I think that maybe reporters should admit that they're incapable of covering this topic rationally.
Byron York has a great piece on the brazen advocacy on display by supposedly mainstream reporters. He lists some of the broadcast politicking going on before moving to Twitter:
"Reporters on my Twitter feed seem to hate the NRA more than anything else, ever," Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg noted recently. (In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting, but before Newtown, Goldberg wrote a balanced assessment of the gun issue in which he advocated both stronger gun controls and more widespread gun ownership.)
When Goldberg made his comment, a writer from The New Republic named Marc Tracy responded, "So either reporters on Twitter are crazy or the NRA is uniquely hateful. Which do you think it is?"
"I think the NRA is ridiculous and horrible, but I think some reporters are fulfilling stereotypes," Goldberg told Tracy.
"What stereotype?" asked Tracy. "That they think they are smarter and better than a retrograde, evil organization? They are! We are!"
It's a free country. Reporters are free to hate the 2nd Amendment. But for the sake of the journalistic enterprise, they should admit they're too irrational to cover this topic even remotely fairly.