Just two days ago, I posted about a rather dangerous game of cat and mouse between local journalists in New York and gun owners.  A local newspaper is publishing the names and addresses of gun owners in part of their reading area.  I retaliation, a concerned reader published the names and addresses of the staff members of the newspaper.

The point of my post is that this is more evidence that we are no longer interested n talking about issues … we want publicity stunts and one-liners to serve as our evidence.  Proving my point, the editors of the paper announced that they will be publishing a new list of gun owners in another part of their readership range.

There is a point made by a journalism professor in the article:

Some critics retaliated by posting reporters’ and editors’ addresses and other personal information online.

Howard Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, called the critics’ response childish and petulant.

“It doesn’t move the issue of gun control to the level of intelligent public discussion,” he said. “Instead, it transforms what should be a rational public debate on a contentious issue into ugly gutter fighting.”

Is the professor right?  yes!  However, what the professor fails to acknowledge is that it is no more childish than what the publishers are doing.  Publishing this list was in no way going to start a rational debate.  It absolutely was going to get the newspaper a lot of publicity, and absolutely was going to trigger an emotional response but both the far right and fairly sensible gun owners;  both of whom now feel attacked.

The article also presents two arguments against why this information should have been released.  A private citizen noted in a comment that publishing these addresses also alerts criminals to homes that are far less likely to own guns.  (From my point of view, it also alerts criminals as to which homes guns may be stolen from … given that a large percentage of crimes committed with guns seem to use stolen guns).

Another critic notes that there is already new legislation about to move through the legislature that would keep certain public records more private … and that publications like this will increase public support for laws of this nature.

I find it sad when our press … one of the single most important aspects of a free society, becomes so beholden to commercial interests that there become too many questions as to how “free” they actually are … that rather than report important news in a manner that will spark a rational debate, they report news in such a way that feeds fear and anger, essentially voiding the possibility of a rational public debate on an issue.  As I said earlier, both sides of this particular debate are wrong.  The difference is, I expect people (plural) to act irrationally.  I expect the press to behave far better.  To expand on the point of the critic quoted in the article even further, events like this can easily sway the public against the press, and if the public and the press are at odds, then where have we gone to as a society?

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