Tri States Public Radio Staff
Shop Talk – January 22
Tue January 22, 2013
Publishing the Names of Gun Owners
The panelists discuss a newspaper’s decision to publish the names and addresses of gun permit holders.
The information is considered public record – the same as marriages, births, real estate transactions, etc. But The Journal News of Westchester County, NY, did not print the gun permit data until after the school shootings in Newtown, CT. The timing of the decision angered those who believe it cast gun permit holders in a negative light and violated their privacy.
The matter led to the state legislature passing a measure that blocks access to the records unless special permission is granted by local governments or the courts. The law was signed by Governor Cuomo.
The Radio Television Digital News Association and other media groups are urging the governor and lawmakers to reconsider the action.
The Shop Talk panelists feel the governor and legislature overreacted and should restore the public’s right to the information.
But the panelists also question the newspaper’s action. They feel it was not journalism but rather a data dump that did not provide any depth or context. Panelist Mike Murray compared it to the phone book – while it contains a great deal of information, you wouldn’t call it journalism.
The Journal News has since removed the gun data from its website.