the Media's Anti-gun Bias
One journalist teaches his colleagues about
guns by taking them to the shooting range.
SO I'M DOING WHAT magazine writers are always doing--pitching articles--this time to one of my regular clients, a top men's magazine. I'd finished pitching and was winding up the conversation when the editor interrupted.
"There's one thing I'd like for you to explain to me," the editor said. "We send you to cool places and pay you a lot of money. You're one of our guys, one of us..."
I warily agreed.
"Can you explain to me about the guns?" he said.
Ah, I thought, the guns. Since this was one of the largest outdoor sports magazines in the country, I'd suggested a story on sport shooters. I'd also mentioned that I'd been a competitive pistol shooter for 15 years. "I'm a competitor," I told my editor. "I race bicycles, do triathlons, climb mountains. I'm also a shooter. I shoot because it's fun."
"Bullshit," he replied.
Which is how I came to have what is laughingly referred to as "the most nightmarish job in the gun culture."
I'm the guy who deals with the national media. I teach reporters, editors and correspondents to shoot. And in the year-and-a-half since, with the backing of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), I've been running media seminars. I've come to some very unsettling conclusions about the relationship between reporters and guns. In fact, I believe the media--print and electronic--may be the single biggest casualty in the three decades of this "shooting war."
First, the seminars. NSSF brings together journalists and shooting sports champions for one-on-one instruction. The seminars are not specifically political, but, as I make clear to potential participants, no subjects are off-limits. In our first five seminars, we've had reporters from the Wall Street Journal and other national dailies, top writers for such publications as Newsweek, Outside, Men's Fitness and other magazines and electronic journalists of various stripe.
For people who are part of the gun culture, the results have been amazing. At the beginning of the seminars, almost all the journalists are anti-gun, to one degree or another, some virulently so. By the end there's a huge turnaround. How huge? Several of our participants have actually purchased guns and started competitive shooting.
"You're not the Michigan Militia," said one reporter for a national daily. "You're the kind of people I'd hang out with. Heck, you're the kind of people I'd date."
You're thinking, "That's great--they're breaking down stereotypes on both sides of the fence." But a-year-and-a-half of seminars has confirmed a simple truth--there is an overwhelming anti-gun bias among journalists, a bias that has spread from opinion to factual coverage of the issue.
Let me throw some numbers out.
Most telling to me are
the journalists who are not allowed to attend the NSSF seminars. In one
case, a journalist had agreed to come. He said he had argued with his
producers that there was a need to balance their coverage of firearms.
Later in the week, he called to cancel, and after extracting a promise to
never reveal his name or media outlet, said that his producers had nixed
his visit on the grounds that they were "unwilling to present any
positive firearms stories," and the best way to do that was just not
assign any journalists to stories that could turn out to have a pro-gun
spin. We talked for a long time, because he clearly felt he had walked
into an ethical dilemma--which, of course, he had. Substitute
"Hispanic" or "Democrat" for "firearms" in
the above quote and try to imagine the political firestorm that would
Michael Bane is the author of 20 books, including "Over the Edge: A Regular Guy's Odyssey in Extreme Sports" and "Trail Safe." His articles have appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, Men's Fitness, National Geographic Adventure and other publications.
AJR - American Journalism Review is online at: http://ajr.newslink.org
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