When journalists start a privacy war, where does it end?
The publication of the names and addresses of gun permit holders by the NY Lower Hudson Journal News , a Gannett paper, sparked controversy, including publication by a blogger (additional here) of equally personal yet publicly available information about the editors and writers of the Journal News.
The paper defends its conduct on the following grounds:
“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….
“We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news….
There has been criticism by other professional journalists that it was not necessary to provide names and addresses in order to obtain whatever journalistic value there was in the story. At Poynter, Al Tompkins writes:
I am not a big fan of the maps that show sex offenders, but at least there is a logical reason for posting them …. The permit holders are accused of nothing….
I like it when journalists take heat for an explosive, necessary, courageous investigation that exposes important wrongdoing. There is journalistic purpose and careful decision-making supporting those stories. But The News Journal is taking heat for starting a gunfight just because it could.
The Journal News is planning on another data dump with more names and addresses in surrounding counties.
Which brings me to a comment submitted last night. It was from a first-time commenter, and it contained personal contact information for the Chairwoman of Gannett, including home address, telephone numbers, second home, neighbors, and relatives.
I don’t like the tactic, but it is something done by a Gannett newspaper (at least as to names and addresses).
I’m on board with adopting some of the left’s Alinskyite tactics, like holding them to their own rules, but does this go too far, particularly since she was not directly involved? And the information is much more personal than just name and address.
Is there any newsworthiness in it? No more or less so than the identity of law-abiding gun permit holders. Neither poses a threat to the public. But it’s certainly something people are interested in.
I’m not going to publish the unredacted comment, but what do you think?
— Barbara McMahon (@southsalem) December 30, 2012