When newspapers go all sanctimonious....

Dateline: Wed 09 Jan 2013

Despite the winter holidays and their distractions, the story of the small Gannett newspaper in New York that on Dec. 23 published the names and addresses of 33,614 registered gun owners in its area continues to have legs.

The New York Times weighed in Sunday, revealing how the Journal-News in White Plains, N.Y., has become a target of threats by furious citizens whose privacy was violated and others who are sympathetic to the gun owners, including a New York gun association urging a boycott of the paper's advertisers.  

The irony is that the outcry has been so intense that the publisher has had to hire armed security guards to protect her staff.


Thanks to Brian Smith for following this hoopla a couple weeks ago; he pointed out that immediately after the newspaper made its bone-headed move (an idea cooked up by a tax reporter who was frustrated in efforts to interview Sandy Hook parents following the mass shootings there), a local blog retaltiated.

I admit that this is the part of the story I really enjoy.

The blogger, Christopher Fountain, a non-practicing lawyer who sells real estate, busted the chops of the newspaper by publishing the names, addresses, phone numbers, social media contact info, etc., for the publisher, the reporter who wrote the story, the big boss at Gannett and others involved (the visual editor responsible for the map, etc).

Here's the blogger's take, published Dec. 24 and titled "Sauce for the Goose":


Love it.

The sanctinmonious attitude on the part of the paper is unbelievable. As others have pointed out, the paper put gun-owners in harm's way by releasing this information -- those legal gun owners include retired cops, judges, others in law enforcement, etc. to say nothing of women who were protecting themselves from abusive ex-boyfriends/spouses. 

The paper also provided a map with addresses for potential thieves to break into homes to steal firearms.

This was all done under the largesse of the Freedom of Information Act. The FAIL came when the publisher, editors and reporters refused to think through the consequences of their actions; they were simply clueless and off in Journalism Cloud 9. The result is deserved righteous indignation and an effort to hurt the paper financially.

Not surprisingly, the paper's circulation has been steadily dropping, says Smith, plummeting from 144,000 in 2006 to 70,000 weekdays and 90,000 Sunday in 2012.

In finale, here are some of Smith's pithy observations:

"I have to admit that I wanted to stand up and cheer when I heard about the blog's response. Too often, I think, the news media tend to treat average citizens as if their privacy doesn't matter ... while guarding their own. If I were a honked-off gun owner, I'd be spending my free time at the local courthouse and city-county building, digging up lawsuits, traffic offenses, divorce records and any other public record I could find on the newspaper's staff and management.
"Nothing makes a newspaper more responsible than a widely disseminated story containing lines like 'As part of his divorce settlement, Editor John Smith agreed to complete alcoholism counseling.'"


Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Well, I've known Brian Smith since about 1978 and one thing I've often said about him: "That Brian is a pithy guy." :)

Seriously, I think Brian summed up this ridiculous mess very well with his observations.

2013-01-09 14:24:11

Gene Poole [unverified] said:

Gannett's got exposure / liability problems here, in perceptible terms of "registered" & "unprotected," unless future circumstances are unrelated & lawyers aren't doing that sorta thing anymore...

2013-01-09 19:50:43

hendy [Member] said:

Living in glass houses.... it's a good idea not to throw rocks.

2013-01-10 10:14:06

Christopher Lloyd [unverified] said:

I don't have any problem with newspapers/websites publishing information that makes their readership uncomfortable and even angry -- when there's a compelling journalistic purpose. There was none here.

2013-01-11 15:34:14

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Facebook has the name, address, income, and other personal information about Gracia Martore of (pfui) Gannett, the company that enabled the story about gunowners. Turn about is fair play, etc., but I am sorely chuffed that the facebook entry notes Ms Martore is not only well paid for her work, she got a BONUS for it.

2013-01-11 15:44:50

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