Thursday, December 27, 2012

Right to Know or Arrogance? Newspaper Publishes Names, Addresses of Gun Owners

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 9:59 AM

The White Plains Journal News published an interactive map of its regions gun permit holders.
  • The White Plains Journal News published an interactive map of its region's gun permit holders Dec. 24.

An Upstate New York newspaper is taking some heat after publishing the names and addresses of its region's gun owners Dec. 24.

The White Plains Journal News published an article titled, “The gun owner next door: what you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”
Along with the story, the Journal News published an interactive map that allows readers to click on marks that signify households with gun permits. The information was all acquired legally through a Freedom of Information request, but that hasn’t stopped a flood of angry letters, emails, phone calls, online comments and tweets about the decision.

It also hasn’t forced the newspaper’s owners, Gannett, to remove the map from its website.

“New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

The controversial article and accompanying multimedia effort came in the shadow of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 people dead — 20 of them young children.

Hundreds are commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Reaction ranged from positive (“The public deserves to know”) to civilized criticism (“Shame on you for letting the criminals know which homes to rob to get weapons”) to enraged (“No better than Hitler”).

The map covers Westchester and Rockland counties, and doesn’t publish information about types or numbers of guns. The newspaper found 44,000 permits on record, or 1 in 23 adults, in the Lower Hudson Valley north of New York City.

Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute for reporters and editors, called it “journalistic arrogance.”

“Publishing gun owners’ names makes them targets for theft or public ridicule,” Tompkins told CNN.

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