Friday, January 4, 2013

Hey, Gannett, it's time to type up a few pink slips

By now you've heard the story of the New York newspaper that printed the names and addresses of local gun owners. You may not have heard about an Iowa newspaper which ran a column suggesting that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell be dragged behind a pickup truck until they do something about gun laws. It also implied that we not only do away with guns, but gun owners.

The common denominator in this story is the Gannett company. Media giant that owns properties like USA Today and a bunch of TV stations and newspapers. You may be working for one as you read this.

Bias is a big enough problem in our industry, but this stuff seriously crosses the line. In the first case, publishing personal information about gun owners is not only an invasion of privacy, it puts people in danger. The second case is nothing more than a hate filled diatribe.

Neither has anything to do with journalism. What, exactly, is the point of printing names and addresses of gun owners? If you were, for example, doing a story about a batch of shootings on Primrose Lane and needed to know how many people on the street owned guns, this might be information you'd want. You might say, "Fifty percent of Primrose Lane residents own guns." But you still wouldn't print personal information. This is like ringing the dinner bell for criminals, who now know which homes aren't protected.

This has nothing to do with your position on the second amendment or gun control. This is about a news organization trying to stir the pot.

As journalists we can often make positive change. We often help get laws changed by doing stories that expose problems that need to be addressed. But we don't "out" people who have not broken the law simply because our opinions on an issue differ from theirs.

It boggles the mind that the people who run Gannett have not fired the people responsible for this stuff. Considering the newspaper industry is on life support, the last thing it needs is a boycott because of a breach in ethics.

And in what has to be the best example of irony meeting hypocrisy, the New York newspaper is now being guarded by armed guards. I can only imagine the phone call which implemented that action. ("Hi, I see you're on our list of gun nuts. Wanna come down and guard the newsroom? Lock and load!")

There's enough hate and anger in this country right now. The last thing America needs is for the journalists to throw gasoline on the fire.

Time to take some action, Gannett. The most important thing you should be printing today is a bunch of pink slips.


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