Columbia, SC — I’ve never been a fan of the “do it because we can” approach to journalism. If we’re to be responsible for our actions and to the public, we need to ask “to what end” or “for what purpose” whenever we engage in projects such as The Journal News of New York’s publication of names and addresses of gun owners on an interactive map. I don’t think it’s sufficient to say it will provoke conversation or sell papers.
The paper’s action strikes me as grossly indifferent to the people whose information is being shared. The stories behind people’s decisions to purchase guns and keep them in their homes are probably as different as the people themselves. That is what’s lost in something like this. It seems to me the newspaper is suggesting something unsavory about these folks. While some may indeed be gun fetishists or loony or potential murderers, others, maybe the vast majority, believe that having a gun is an inalienable right, and they’re responsible gun owners.
It is not clear to me what greater good the newspaper is seeking. We shouldn’t use innocent people to promote a political position, even if much of the public being polled seems to be running low on patience for solutions to the problem of these mass attacks.
Ernest L. Wiggins
Associate journalism professor, USC