On the ‘Journal-News’ gun map, context, and ‘private’ information

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The infamous gun map. ()
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The Lineup collects the media stories, big and small, that are on our radar each day.

The controversy over the Journal News' map of gun owners' names and addresses isn't over.

In his Media Equation column today, The New York Times' David Carr makes a strong case that the Rockland- and Westchester-based paper failed to place the data revealing gun owners' personal information in a proper context that would have warranted publication:

Publishing is a discrete act, separate from whether something is public or not. Our job as journalists is to draw attention, to point at things, and what we choose to highlight is defined as news. And then it is our job to create context, talk to sources who bring insight and provide analysis. Given that, simply pointing out that something is public as the sole reason for republishing it is not a sufficient justification.

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Times columnist and former executive editor Bill Keller seems to agree with him:

I sympathize with the paper’s effort to dramatize the commonplace reality of gun ownership at a time when the subject is so sadly on our minds. I don’t buy the gun owners’ assertion that the disclosure is an invitation to burglars in search of firearms; on the contrary, the publicity sends criminals the same message as those front-door notices of your home alarm system: Try next door. It’s also conceivable that the attention will prompt some owners to lock up unsecured weapons. But when you are going to make a sizable population of law-abiding citizens feel violated, you have to ask yourself, what is the offsetting gain? In this case, I think, not much. The information The Journal News provided its readers is so far from complete as to be misleading.

Devil's advocate Dylan Byers of Politico has a different take:

It's worth noting that context also exists off-page, especially when it comes to a story like Newtown. This data wasn't published in a vacuum.

In the highly charged debate over guns that followed the shooting, the extent of ownership was highly relevant. The shooting, known to anyone in this country not living under a rock, was the context. By publishing the "gun map," the Journal News gave readers a visceral understanding of the presence of guns in their own community.

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In other news...

Conde Nast writers are not happy with the new company contracts dictating the optioning of their articles. [The New York Times]

Robin Roberts is planning to return to "Good Morning America" next month. [NYT/Media Decoder]

Joyce Wadler is taking a buyout at The New York Times. [The New York Observer]

Booking-battle between Fox Business and CNBC. [New York Post]

More on the CNET-CBS-CES debacle. [The Verge]

A star CNET reporter has resigned in protest over the controversy. [BuzzFeed]

Changes at WSJ Live. [Talking Biz News]

2012 was "The Year of Kickstarter Journalism." [International Business Times]

Quote of the day...

Hardware journalism – the process of writing reviews, news, and opinion about gadgets – is a dark art. ... It’s a delicate balance and it seems to be working fine until your parent company sues one of the manufacturers you cover and the the whole facade comes crashing down. ... You guys sit there and say that all gadgets journalism is horribly corrupt. It isn’t. There are plenty of good people who just want to share cool stuff with you and many of those people are at CNET. It’s a steady job with good pay and it offers a nice platform. But this Dish fiasco is what happens when gadgets journalism goes really bad.

John Biggs

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On TV...

Piers Morgan-Alex Jones redux and the media's role in covering the gun debate:

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Capital is hosting a panel discussion tomorrow morning about the American financial press:

As we know from each new iteration of the European debt crisis, and from every aftershock of the Arab Spring, America's fortunes, and policies, are driven to a large extent by what happens elsewhere. The U.S. economy does not exist in a vaccum; it is part of a global economy.

But does the mainstream American press treat it as such, when covering global finance? Is the media doing its job keeping us informed, and steering the conversation productively?

Join Capital and our partner, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, as we explore how the global financial press interprets these crucial developments around the world for its audience, and ask what drives the American media to cover the international economy the way it does.

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Kevin J. Delaney, editor in chief and co-founder of Quartz, the new global business site from Atlantic Media. Kevin was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal for a decade, working in Paris and Silicon Valley, before returning to New York to become managing editor of WSJ.com.

Edmund Lee, reporter for Bloomberg News in New York. Edmund covers the media industry. He's written for The New York Times, the Daily News, New York, The Village Voice, Women's Wear Daily, Portfolio, Advertising Age and Bloomberg News.

Felix Salmon, blogger and columnist at Reuters. Felix has worked at Portfolio and Euromoney and has been blogging since the dawn of the form in the late '90s.

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