AP Drops Unthinking Bias Into Report On School Shooting

The nation was horrified by the latest school shooting yesterday that left two dead and many others injured.

I won’t belabor the facts here or dignify this animal by giving his name, but predictably, it didn’t take long for the usual suspects to come out of the woodwork screaming for more gun control.


Take this quote from the Brady Campaign:

While the specifics of these events are under investigation, if they are like the overwhelming majority of school shootings – the guns involved came from a home. Over two-thirds (68%) of the attackers had acquired the gun(s) from their own home or that of a relative. If school shootings and other violent incidents at schools are to be stopped, the effort must begin at home. It starts with parents, who need to recognize the risks of guns in the home and make safer choices about gun access and storage.

Nevermind that the shooter was 15 and already in violation of multiple gun laws — besides murder being, you know, illegal and all. As Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign accidentally notes above — the specifics of the event are under investigation. So, we don’t know how the shooter got the guns in the first place – at least not yet.

What was stunning to me, as a journalist (day job is as a newspaper editor in Kansas) was the unthinking bias in the Associated Press’ story.

About halfway through, they drop this graf, with no context:


“It’s horrifying that we can no longer call school shootings ‘unimaginable’ because the reality is they happen with alarming frequency,” said former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head in 2011. She called on Congress to strengthen gun laws.

Several things here. First, why are we even dropping this quote in? It’s obviously from a press release, at least I would hope they didn’t reach out to Giffords on this. Second, where’s the context? Did they talk to the NRA? Or the Kentucky State Rifle and Pistol Association? Note also: they didn’t mention she was a Democrat.

When people talk about bias in the media, they generally think there’s some sort of vast conspiracy among journalists. 

The reality is much more banal and troubling. Most journalists are left-leaning at the least. 

What you have is the sort of unthinking bias you see above. “Of course we should use a quote from Giffords, she was shot wasn’t she? She’s against guns, this makes sense.”

Except, that from a news standpoint the quote was irrelevant in a story about the event itself.


In a reax story, sure, that’s defensible. But there was simply no reason to include it except to make the point that all right-thinking people would agree with it.

This is the real problem. This is bias against gun owners and the Second Amendment that is so deep-seated, that the reporter in question never even thought to get another point of view.

This isn’t what we’re taught in J-school, and it’s not proper ethics.

This reporter should be ashamed, and I challenge all my colleagues to remember their ethics and take some time to examine their biases.

They’ll be better for it, our profession will be better for it, and our nation will be better for it.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member