By now, you've probably heard about the Gannett-owned daily which on Saturday posted an online data base revealing names and addresses of local gun-permit holders in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. Needless to say, The Journal News' story -- which came replete with an interactive map allowing readers to zoom in on red dots to see who's packing -- continues to trigger much sound and fury.
"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 editor CynDee Royle.
But guess what, CynDee? A lot of pistol-packing mamas (and daddies) would really, really, prefer you spend more time sharing recipes, weather reports, and fiscal cliff updates with your readers than whether they have a revolver in their bedroom closet.
Thousands of comments have poured in to news outlets across the country, and not many are supportive of the newspaper's map.
"So should we start wearing yellow Stars of David so the general public can be aware of who we are??" one commenter wrote.
"Now everyone knows where the legal guns are kept, a valuable piece of information for criminals," another wrote. "Why don't you do something helpful, like trying to find out where the illegal guns are kept?"
Some readers are so enraged that they're plotting revenge. As Jim Hopkins writes on the Gannett Blog:
Readers have now retaliated by making public what they claim is Gannett CEO Gracia Martore's home address in Virginia as well as her photograph.
House is loaded with highly valuable easily transprtable items," a poster identified only as "vintovka" wrote in a typo-riddled comment on a website for assault rife enthusiasts. "As a promonent liberal from suburban D.C. she probably goes to a lot of well publisised funerals, during which her house would be empty.
While she does have and alarm system a simple smash and grab robbery would be highley profitable.
Even the esteemed Poynter Institute, which, among its many journalism course offers, teaches ethical-decision making, gave spurned paper's action.
"Publishing gun owners' names makes them targets for theft or public ridicule. It is journalistic arrogance to abuse public record privilege, just as it is to air 911 calls for no reason or to publish the home addresses of police or judges without cause," Al Tompkins, a Poynter senior faculty member, said in a statement Wednesday.
"Unwarranted publishing of the names of permitted owners just encourages gun owners to skip the permitting."
At the same time, ardent gun-control advocacy groups, including our own Washington Cease Fire, expressed regret over The Journal News' decision to publish the gun owners database.
"My personal reaction is that this is really divisive and counterproductive," said Cease Fire executive director Beth Flynn. "The public has a right to know the number of guns out there and what's being done to track them, but this was not the way to go. I'm very disappointed to see this information published."