December 20, 2012
The Ebbing Tide of Journalistic Integrity
A good friend of mine, intelligent and well reasoned, has also had it with today’s media, especially regarding the topic so hot in our national dialog right now, Gun Control. I am posting his well written editorial (of sorts) below in its entirety. It is good reading, and he brings up some very valid and cogent points in the discussion.
Reasoned dialog will absolutely be accepted in the comments on this post… If it degenerates into name calling I will delete the trolls responsible. This is an Adult forum! I expect it to remain such!
Without further adieu, I give you “Joe’s” editorial:
19 December, 2012
To the Media At Large:
Fair and Balanced?
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Media is engendering a national trend to allow emotion to overwhelm journalistic integrity. Over the last several days many “fair and balanced” journalistic outlets such as NPR have been producing news articles that are factually inaccurate and factually incomplete. One of the tenants of true journalistic integrity is to fully research all sides of a story before releasing it. This lapse has resulted in an overwhelming bias in the reporting on the gun control debate and is clearly putting our national media into a position of no longer being a true journalistic source, but instead as a lobby for the position of gun control.
Item one: the reporting immediately following the incident was poorly sourced. Every major news outlet misreported the shooter’s name and relationship to the school. They jumped right in, following the other news outlets with lemming-like precision to produce piece after piece containing factually incorrect information. Fortunately, no one was seriously harmed by this. However, one wonders what could have happened if an innocent individual was singled out as the perpetrator before law enforcement could intervene. This, at the very least, is shameful.
Item two: No one seems to be able to find or interview a credible advocate for gun rights or assault rifle owners. The recent interview with Malcolm Brady (Dec. 17) on NPR’s “All Things Considered”, a misnomer at best, was a farce. Although Mr. Brady is something of an expert on firearms policy, it is doubtful that coming from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that he is an objective spokesperson for the millions of private citizen gun owners in the United States, especially when it comes to assault rifles. Simply put, the reason for owning an assault rifle is for personal protection. A cursory study of human history will show that governments fail again and again to protect their citizens from disaster and internal political turmoil. The argument is often heard from those who have not considered the factual details of personal protection of life, liberty and property that there is no need for a private citizen to own a firearm for personal defense. They say there are police or the National Guard to defend us. Studying the days immediately after Katrina will show anyone that even in good times, the protection afforded by the government will break down. When the police and their families become victims of disaster, they abandon their posts just as quickly as the folks who operate shopping malls. Being prepared means that you are ready for the scenario that is improbable, and strictly mathematically speaking, which may be above most journalists, improbable means that it will definitely happen at some point. There is no region in our nation that cannot become lawless due to either man-made or natural catastrophes. Denying this or acting as if this is so unlikely as to not be considered is folly, farce, and ignorant of the simplest lessons taught by history. One of the other lessons taught by history is that societies that become reliant on the protection provided by their governments become the victims of those governments. Even a cursory examination of the events in Syria will show that an unarmed populace is ripe for victimization, and the weapon that is providing the most effective defense for that population is the assault rifle. This point wasn’t covered by Mr. Brady, the one-time soldier and apparent “expert” provided by NPR to explain the case for assault rifles. The bottom line is that in a ground based, person on person encounter, the assault rifle is the status-quo for tactical defensive engagements. Mr. Brady’s experience in the military must have skipped this basic point. In most American communities, the good guys outnumber the bad guys one hundred to one, but one bad guy with an assault rifle can easily overwhelm one hundred good guys armed with rhetoric, faith in their government and good intentions. The continuing experiment that is America relies on the ability and right of the people to provide the majority of services to themselves. Outside of providing protection beyond our borders which has been delegated, and rightly so to the military, the government should not be in a position to disarm the American populace. This is the essence of the second amendment to the constitution. This is the essence of being an American, and is why the right to own firearms that guarantee that we will be able to, in times of disaster or injustice, to protect ourselves, our families, our property and our communities must be maintained. As a free citizen of America, it is more than our right to be able to defend ourselves, it is our responsibility. The media needs to do a much better job of identifying spokespersons. In the case of Mr. Brady, it would be obvious to anyone on the side of firearm advocacy that he would not be an appropriate representative.
Item three: the incidence of mass shooting is not increasing. Again with the bad math. Reporter after reporter has made the statement or insinuated that the incidence of mass shootings is increasing. In fact, we have been experiencing a lull. This occurs in statistics and is seen in many bodies of data where events occur sporadically. There are groupings of events and they occur at an average or standard rate. Since we are currently experiencing a grouping, this would appear over the last 2-3 years to be an increase in the overall rate of these incidences. Considered over a period of time going back say 30 years, it is likely from a mathematical standpoint that the rate of these incidences is not going up. The emotion involved makes us say that this seems to be an increase, but this is where that journalistic integrity thing comes in. Do a better job. Take a statistics class.
Item four: hunting is not the only credible reason for owning a firearm. A recently broadcast editorial by Frank Deford was consistent with the apparent overall stance by journalists that the only reasonable case that anyone would own a firearm is to hunt with it. Target shooting with what are sensationally referred to as “high power rifles” is one example of another use. (There is no standard for this, by the way. Any rifle could be considered to be “high power”, or low power depending on how it is compared.) Also, many firearm sporting enthusiasts shoot at targets using semi-automatic firearms. These are never intended to be used for hunting or self-defense. Many organizations offer college scholarships for students who are marksmen, and the firearms they operate are clearly designed and intended to be used for target shooting of one type or another. Mr. Deford’s columns are opinion pieces for sure, but as NPR’s resident sporting expert, he could have done a little more research.
News reporting requires more than just reporting on what is easy to find, it requires burrowing down to find all sides of a story. Preventing emotion from interfering with this process is one reason why I have been, even as a staunchly conservative individual, a supporter of NPR’s program. This year, based on this apparent lapse of journalistic integrity, I will be contributing the money I normally give to NPR elsewhere, most likely to the NRA. We have now become an embattled organization, not mainly due to the recent tragedy, but more due to the continuing loss of journalistic integrity by news organizations that used to provide facts and unbiased reporting while taking into account all perspectives that utilized view points from actual subject matter experts. Reporting on the emotion behind this tragedy is certainly news worthy, using it to grind an axe is not.
Very Truly Yours,
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