Date sent: Tue, 02 Oct 2001 18:24:23
Subject: Irresponsible reporting
From: Nicolas Martin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear news editor:
I could scarcely believe my ears
listening to your 5pm news today. Within a story about self-defense your anchors
tell listeners that gun control advocates caution people that there are specific
statistical risks to gun ownership.
Since when is it the business of
new departments to insert the positions of political advocacy groups into news
stories? If these were merely uncontroversial facts obtained from government
and independent agencies, you would have no need to report them as the views
of a special interest group. You would not, for instance, say, before
you purchase a car be aware that anti-automobile groups caution that 35,000
people die every year in car accidents, would you? Is the number of people
who are killed and by cars not a public
record that can easily be checked? Are your reporters and too lazy to do the
work required, or do you not expect them to do real reporting?
I called your department after the
story aired and spoke to a man to whom I put my objections. He said that he
was sure the producer had checked the references provided by the gun control
advocates, but he then backtracked, noting that he had no evidence that such
fact-checking was done and was making an assumption. Were groups or experts
opposed to gun control contacted so that your station would learn if the statistics
were uncontroversial, agreed to by both sides? I dont think the NRA and
the many experts on the subject are difficult to locate. But perhaps you only
include the views of advocacy groups with which you agree into your stories.
Im fairly new to Knoxville,
so I wonder if it is a regular feature of your news to insert the views of special
interests into your stories. In stories about food do you say, People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals warns that the eating of animal flesh leads
to high cholesterol and increased cancer risks. In stories about birth
control usage do you tell listeners, Please be aware that the Pope says
that birth control leads to promiscuity and resulting increases in AIDS and
other sexually transmitted diseases. In medical stories do you note that
Patients right advocates note that tens of thousands of Americans
are killed every year by physicians, nurses, and medical procedures? I
should think that virtually every story could include some statistics, real
or bogus, from some advocacy group. And if you begin to provide a warning with
every news story, there are far more risky things than gun ownership. Ive
mentioned three: driving a car, having a medical procedure, and engaging in
If you have some incontrovertible
facts why dont you report them? Why do we need your station to be the
mouthpiece for any advocacy group? Im sure that any decent reporter could
lay hands on official gunshot statistics in a few hours. Im sure that
even those statistics might have critics, just as the numbers about deaths from
medical error do. I deal with health statistics all the time and I know just
how uncertain they can be.
Let me put it plainly. It is wholly
irresponsible for a news department to be serving as the mouthpiece for political
groups, including groups with which I agree. Good reporting isnt just
repeating the assertions of vested interests, and it isnt accepting those
interests at face value. I have no idea why such a silly warning was inserted
into this story, but since it was it should not have been as the assertion of
a special interest, or the views of competing interests should have been sought.
Otherwise we viewers might begin
to think that the role of your news staff is to deliver propaganda rather than
news, and you wouldnt want us to get that idea, would you?
Would you be kind enough to supply
me with the sources that your producer fact checked to confirm the claims of
the gun control advocates that you aired?
Consumer Health Education Council
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