There’s nothing new in criticizing media. Claims of bias come up all the time — from both sides. Lines get drawn with Fox News on one side, MSNBC on the other and outlets such as CNN getting pilloried by both the left and right.
Political bias deserves criticism of course, but those biases pale in comparison to the big policy issue of gun control. No other issue turns people who are supposed to be objective reporters into hair-on-fire advocates and zealots with zero concern for the facts faster and more thoroughly than a tragic event like a mass shooting.
What’s worse is that no matter how many such horrors take place, the media continues to flush their reputation down the drain every time. Not only does their extreme, reactionary advocacy make them less effective communicators and reporters, it hinders itself. Their advocacy undermines their advocacy.
The press continuously get things wrong, often to the detriment or harm of others, and yet feign surprise when people call them out with vitriol.
It would be difficult to list all the mistakes the media makes on a daily basis when it comes to their reporting on firearms. For example, when members of the press say, “military-grade weapons” when describing semi-automatic rifles, it’s a phony description. The rifles sold to the consumer marketplace are not “military-grade.”
More severe problems exist beyond firearms descriptors. Here are three primary reasons the press’s credibility on the issue is so low.
1. They rely on poor sources for their information: They go to gun control groups to get their “facts” and then report without question.
The latest example involved the number of school shootings that have occurred since the start of 2018. News organizations, reporters, celebrities, and talking heads “reported” the Parkland shooting as the 18th school shooting so far this year.
The 18 number comes from the gun-grabbing group Everytown For Gun Safety. Did the press outlets check? Did they confirm how Everytown defined a “school shooting?” No. They just repeated the number over and over again.
It wasn’t until people began looking into the numbers the Washington Post offered up a fact check:
A tweet by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) including the claim had been liked more than 45,000 times by Thursday evening, and one from political analyst Jeff Greenfield had cracked 126,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted it, too, as did performers Cher and Alexander William and actors Misha Collins and Albert Brooks. News organizations — including MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, Time, MSN, the BBC, the New York Daily News and HuffPost — also used the number in their coverage. By Wednesday night, the top suggested search after typing “18” into Google was “18 school shootings in 2018.”
It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong.
Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counted as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.
There were no corrections from the press either. Bad form, guys.
2. They just make stuff up: It’s bad when the media reports lousy information. It is worse when they make up news out of whole cloth.
A current egregious example comes from CBS in a piece entitled, “5 things that are more complicated than buying a gun in Florida.” And they get it wrong in their first example!
The first item on their list is cold medicine. They write:
In order to purchase common cold medication, like Sudafed, customers are required to show a form of photo identification that proves they are at least 18 years old.
That’s it. To purchase a firearm, the purchaser must be 18 (for rifles) or 21 (for handguns), show ID, pass a background check and wait 3-5 days (3 days for handguns in the state, five days in some counties for rifles) to take possession. The only exception is if the purchaser possesses a concealed carry license (for which they still must pass a background check). The rest of the article contains much of the same garbage “reporting.”
3. Press coverage is entirely one-sided, and they have no reporters that cover the gun beat: Beat reporting. It’s a thing. When newspapers still flourished, they employed writers that included the chess beat.
Mainstream media outlets, for the most part, do not have a firearms beat. The very fact the media must always be held in check over its sloppiness and bias shows how little regard reporters have for the gun rights community. If CNN can pay a doofus like Chris Cillizza 6-7 figures for his lousy brand of journalism, then they can afford to hire a reporter that focuses on guns.
These reporters should spend time with people in the gun rights community. They should visit shooting ranges and talk to enthusiasts. And, most of all, educate themselves on guns and learn to operate them.
A news organization wouldn’t send a food critic to cover the Supreme Court, so why should reporters with zero experience with firearms get the job of covering a mass shooting?
What’s so mind-numbingly frustrating is that fixing these issues doesn’t require a lot of work. It just requires news organizations having the fortitude to hire dedicated people to cover the issue of firearms.
Will they do it? You don’t need a Magic 8-ball to know the answer is, “Unlikely.” But we can hope, right?