wilsom
Jenny Wilson, via Twitter.

Dear Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant,

Please attempt to adopt some of the objectivity that journalists are supposed to strive for, and stop pushing lies based upon figures provided by advocacy groups with a long, documented history of fabricating both data and anecdotes.

We know that you know that the Mom’s Demand/Everytown claim of 74 school shootings since Newtown claim is laughably false. You even mention that the list includes incidents that were gang-related, drug-related, crime-related or suicides, drive-bys, incidents that were off-campus, after hours, and on weekends.

You also likely know that precisely one of the “74 school shootings” listed was an actual mass shooting of four or more people on school grounds while school was in session… though you left out that detail.

Instead, you and the Courant decided to play a gotcha” game with your readers. This is the subheading to your story:

List Shows 74 Shootings At Schools Since Newtown

You’re more than happy to post that fictional figure Mom’s Demand Money conjured up out of thin air, even though you know it is false and admit as much later. But you ran that as your subheading anyway, knowing that it would leave an impression upon your readers. That is dishonest… and you know it.

Knowing that the Mom’s Demand/Everytown data is a lie, you still pushed this as your lede:

Recent school shootings have refueled a national debate on firearms regulations and led gun-control advocates who had unsuccessfully pushed for stricter laws in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to renew calls for legislative action.

With Sunday marking a year and a half since the tragedy in Connecticut, gun-control advocates point to a list getting national attention that shows that 74 shootings have occurred at schools throughout the country in the 18 months since the deaths of 20 children and six women in Newtown.

It isn’t until after that subheading and lede that you slowly start to concede that the Moms Demand/Everytown figures don’t add up:

Of the shootings on the list, maintained by pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, about a dozen involved an active shooter situation similar to that of Sandy Hook, where an armed gunman attacked the campus and opened fire on a group. Two such instances occurred this month, at a high school in Oregon on Tuesday and at a university in Washington state last week.

The other shootings on the list include suicides, armed robberies, domestic fights, drug disputes and accidental discharges — such as one that occurred last August at an elementary school in Memphis, Tenn., when a 5-year-old brought a loaded handgun to school.

Ms. Wilson, we know that you and your editors are well aware that newspaper readers scan headlines and skim the first few lines of a story to get an overall impression of the story, and that comparatively few people read the entire article. It’s one of the key reasons journalists are taught to write in an inverted pyramid style, with the most important details in the opening paragraphs and the rest of the details follow in descending order of importance.

You put out knowingly deceptive information in your opening graphs, and then walked it back after many readers have chosen to move on.

You may as well have written, “just kidding!”

You would have been far more intellectually honest if the subject of your story was focused on how false gun control claims pushed by  deceptive groups and biased news organizations are being used to “poison the well,” and intentionally skew the national conversation. You’re complicit in the lowest kind of yellow journalism… and you seem fine with that.

No wonder readers are abandoning the mainstream news media in droves, newspapers are closing, and the public has such a low opinion of journalists.

If you want to be respected like Murrow, perhaps you should stop acting like Mapes.

Respectfully,

Bob Owens
Editor, Bearing Arms