Newspapers occupy a unique position in the communities they serve. They report the news, conduct investigative reports, and publish editorials that are oftentimes controversial.
At the same time, newspapers provide local, regional and national businesses with unsurpassed local audience delivery for their advertising messages.
Sometimes these important roles may seem at odds, as is the case with the recent situation in the New York state, where the Journal News (a Gannett newspaper) is under fire for publishing online maps revealing the names and addresses of local citizens with pistol (gun) permits.
I’m sure this is not the first time the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (freedom of speech, press, religion, and petition) has clashed with the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms).
The names and addresses of New York State gun owners is public information, and the newspaper has every right to publish that public information — just as newspapers around the United States and the world publish other public information, like divorces, home sales, bankruptcies, or the local crime blotter.
Some newspapers — to the delight of some readers — go so far as to publish on their Web sites the weekly mug shots (photos) of those arrested locally. As you might imagine, those photos seldom are flattering.
In this case, the newspaper’s decision to post online maps showing the locations of those holding gun permits has resulted in considerable backlash, including personal threats made against the newspaper’s president and publisher.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association has called for a nationwide boycott of advertising with Gannett newspapers, the White Plains, New York-based Journal News’ parent company.
The decision to publish the names and addresses of gun owners has also upset conservatives and gun rights advocates as the newspaper continues to add names to the map of registered gun owners.
The fact is, news is not always good and those in the news are not always happy to be in the news. It is the job of newspapers to report, investigate, and editorialise.
Newspapers can only remain objective and fulfill their role in the communities they serve by remaining independent, beholden to no one — whether it’s the local car dealer trying to prevent their name from being published in the daily log of those driving under the influence or local citizens with gun permits objecting to their names and addresses being published or placed on a map.
The International News Media Association, the association on whose Web site you are reading this blog entry, exists to be of service to newspapers and to work for their advancement. Profit – financial success – is critical for newspapers to remain objective and independent and report the news we need to know.
Sometimes the price paid is the loss of subscriptions and readers. Other times, it’s the loss of advertisers and ad revenue; or worse yet, personal threats.
INMA is committed to fostering the financial success of its members – all news media companies – because we know that without financial success, newspapers would not be able to fulfill the unique role they play in the communities they serve.