On Saturday, Niagara Square was the home of one of the most remarkable political rallies I have seen in recent years. On short notice, organizers gathered a sea of gun rights advocates to decry the passage of Governor Andrew Cuomo's new gun control law.
A senior law enforcement officer I knew on scene told me there were about 3,000 people in attendance. In their Sunday story, the Buffalo News set attendance at under 2,000. Worse, the headline said only hundreds turned out.
Critics say the News divided the crowd in half because they backed Cuomo's gun control legislation, saying "arguments against better control of assault weapons are tinged with fanaticism." It was not an oversight, or simple arithmetic errors. They are drinking deeply of Cuomo's Kool-Aid.
Today, all polling shows a supermajority of Americans are opposed to the elite political class in Washington. Our Founders saw the media as protectors of the people against this unchecked power at the top. Today, much of the media has joined the power and have, in effect, recreated themselves as opposite the American people.
That's a fundamental threat to American democracy. And you don't have to look much further to see glaring examples of media who went over the side than John Dickerson, CBS News' political director, who felt just fine about posting a hyper partisan diatribe on Slate.com calling for President Obama to destroy the GOP. I expect many journalists to scoff at me for sounding the alarm, but those same scribes are no longer independent. Former Democrat pollster Pat Caddell described the problem in a recent interview:
This is the 40-year anniversary of Woodward and Bernstein's Pulitzer-winning Washington Post series exposing Watergate. Bob Woodward, who I actually have had a lot of respect for in the past, has the single best sources in Washington and he doesn't tell us the story of how we ended up with the embassy not protected or how this Youtube video fiction was concocted? I know it was done; everyone in Washington knows it was done. But where is Bob Woodward? He still wants to go to his dinner parties with the political class.
It is time to start talking like Pat Caddell. We must not be afraid to talk about how the media has abandoned their responsibility to tell us what went on in Libya (a frightening turning point). Today, reporters who have joined Washington's elite political class are quietly protecting the White House from the Benghazi story.
Similarly, New York's media elite have joined forces with Cuomo to pass a law in the dead of night to infringe the Second Amendment rights of all New Yorkers. It started downstate.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, the Journal News in Westchester published an interactive map of all the gun owners in two counties. If a reader clicked on the Web graphic, they were shown the name and address of the gun owner. Their story offered no context, no trends were noted, there was no analysis of any merit.
The Journal News also intended to publish the names and addresses of gun permit holders in a third county, but Putnam County officials refused to comply with the paper's Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request. Legislators there moved to make the list off limits for the newspaper. Even the Cuomo Clan in Albany allowed Republicans to insert language into the SAFE Act that allowed gun owners to keep their information away from media outlets with similarly irresponsible ideas of what is news.
The horse was already out of the barn, however, and shortly after the list was published a home the Journal News exposed was robbed with the gun safe very clearly targeted. A week later, another home on the list was robbed. This time, the criminals got the guns.
After receiving thousands of emails, letters and telephone calls from irate citizens, the Journal News removed the map from their Web site late Friday. Unbowed, the publisher lamented terrible threats allegedly received by her employees. None of these threats were fulfilled, but at least two families with guns were put in harm's way. She failed to mention the real victims.
Within days of the Journal News' grave error, the Buffalo News followed suit and filed a FOI request with Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs for the list of all registered gun owners here. Saturday, Jacobs told a group of gun owners in Elma that a News editor made it clear to him they planned to publish the names and addresses. Jacobs refuses to provide the list and told the Elma crowd he'll exhaust every legal avenue to keep the data away from the News.
I got an earful from a few News reporters when PoliticsNY.net pledged to post the names and addresses of all Buffalo News reporters on the Internet if even one Erie County gun owner's name and address made the paper. One, worried that his friends at the Journal News got threats from irate readers, would not acknowledge that two listed homes were robbed with their guns targeted.
A Buffalo News arts reporter contacted me on Twitter to say asking for the Erie County Gun list was no worse than his newspaper asking for the federal Census. One reason he is reviewing galleries and not writing about politics: he thinks the gun registration list is like the Census. Another News reporter scolded me, never mind that he once Tweeted the telephone number of an offensive local man and encouraged irate Twitter followers to harass him.
One reporter I admire told me he lost respect for me when I made the pledge, accusing me of "a pattern of hostility towards reporters." I am not hostile but he is partially right: after graduating with a journalism degree and working with legendary reporters in 11 countries for 30 years, I've lost faith in the profession. In my informed opinion half the reporters working today are not fulfilling the duties our Founders valued so profoundly.
Today, the Buffalo News claims they never planned to publish the gun owner list. (I'll believe the Clerk, thank you.) Instead, they simply want to use the list as a resource. They think we are dumb enough to believe they will check gun ownership of criminals and victims even though the database will be wholly outdated the day they receive it.
The truth: the Buffalo News planned to mimic the Journal News to sell newspapers but the Clerk called them out and public reaction shocked the editors. (County Legislator Joe Lorigo also filed a bill to block this kind of vacuous and irresponsible "reporting" in the future.)
We cannot be afraid to tell the Buffalo News: if you publicize my family's address in your newspaper as gun owners, your family's address will be publicized, too. If they fail to see the moral equivalence of this pledge, they probably don't see the response as protected speech, either.
As Pat Caddell said, "One of the reasons they're reporters rather than participants is because they can't stand the sunlight." In the new media world, sunlight shines in where reporters never expected it.