Earlier this week I covered the bold—some say, foolhardy—action by my local newspaper, The Journal News (owned by Gannett), to publish thousands of names and addresses of gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties, New York. It sparked wide debate among local gun owners, media critics and ethicists, officials and politicians.
One prominent gun-defender retaliated by publishing the names and addresses of newspaper staffers, even those with no link to publishing the gun listings, even including their children in some cases. Then that move was slammed. Legislators in the state announced they would introduce a bill to forbid the release of such information to anyone but police and prosecutors.
The paper has defended its move and now, according to a new Reuters report, it plans to continue in this vein.
In its original report, it revealed that a third county, Putnam, just north of Westchester, had failed to provide the list of permit holders—as required by law, since they are technically public. Now Putnam has complied and the newspapers plans to add these names to its online database.
Howard Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, called critics’ response childish and petulant, in an interviews with Reuters.
“It doesn’t move the issue of gun control to the level of intelligent public discussion,” he said. “Instead, it transforms what should be a rational public debate on a contentious issue into ugly gutter fighting.” He added that the information was public and, if presented in context, served a legitimate interest.
Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, however, hit the move, saying context was lacking—for him, it would have to be part of a package questioning the permitting process. Here's a new guest column at the paper's site backing their decision.