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Journalist Overholser Argues The Case for Publishing Gun-Permit Data

February 27, 2013 10:26:03 am

The national conversation on guns appears to have a new casualty: public information, says Geneva Overholser, director of the journalism school at the University of Southern California, writing for the Online Journalism Review. The latest victim is the Bangor, Me., Daily News in Bangor, Me., whose request for the names of concealed gun permit holders – a public record in Maine – unleashed a firestorm. The paper withdrew its request. In December, the Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., also succumbed tot he outrage directed against it for publishing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders.

Why didn’t journalists champion the side of openness in the post-Newtown Journal News story?, Overholser asks. She concluded that journalists had three primary critiques: Citizens should not be given data without context, Making the data public invaded the privacy of gun permit holders and made them feel unsafe, and this was a crusade on behalf of gun control. All of these seem misguided to Overholser. She makes her arguments and concludes that, "When we hide from facts, we make poor public policy – or avoid making any policy at all."

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