When you go for controversy, prepare for antagonism.
Several days ago, the Journal-News, a newspaper serving the Westchester and Rockland counties of New York, published an interactive map with a list of names and addresses of local gun owners. Rather than garner applause and support, gun owners and privacy advocates went on the attack.
One blogger, Christopher Fountain, was so outraged that he attacked back with a list of his own—the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the Journal-News staff, including editor Cyndee Royle.
In his blog post, “Keep up the heat,” Fountain asks his readers to continuously contact the newspaper and request that they stop posting the private information of gun owners.
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Blogger Robert Cox, of Talk of the Sound, went one step further. Instead of posting a list, Cox mapped the addresses of all the newspaper staff. But with only 11 staff members, his map is nowhere near as visibly powerful as Journal-News’ gun owners map.
Even if the retaliations aren’t as big of a punch, people like Cox and Fountain are rightly upset.
Fountain spoke with CNN’s “Early Start” about the gun-owner map and his retaliation.
“In the aftermath of Newtown, it was obviously one tragedy, but somehow they were conflating legal gun owners with some crazed tormented devil up in Newtown and putting the two together. And I was offended by that I wondered how they would like it if their addresses were published.”
Fountain adds that the newspaper may have inadvertently revealed the identities of citizens in hiding. He says, “I’ve received emails from abused women who were under protective order and in hiding and they’re terribly afraid that now their names and addresses are all over the Internet and accessible through that map.”
Fountain states that, by posting his own list of newspaper staff addresses, he was simply fighting back and wanted them to know how it felt for their private information to be shared.
Journal-News has yet to release a statement directly related to Fountain’s or Cox’s blog posts, but yesterday the president and publisher of the Journal News Media Group, Janet Hasson, spoke to POLITICO, defending their gun map, stating “We knew publication of the database [as well as the accompanying article providing context] would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”
Good intentions or not, Journal-News has landed itself in a sticky situation. While they have the right to share information as they see fit, one wonders whether they were prepared for reader responses and outrage, especially from those who feel their privacy has been violated. While the newspaper may feel they were justly serving the community, they may have also put the identities of some in danger. One can only hope this move doesn’t end in irony with violence against the identified gun owners.