Beyond the Newtown killings, there is journalism to be done

OK, we now know what some of N.C. legislators think about Newtown. Their views aren’t particularly visionary, insightful or helpful, but there you go.

Don’t stop there, news organizations.

Tell me what the NRA thinks of them. Here is a chart for the Senate. (Sen. Richard Burr gets an A rating; Sen. Kay Hagan, an F. Here is a video of Burr speaking at the NRA Celebration of American Values convention in 2010.) The NRA’s endorsements for House members is easy enough to find, too.

Tell me what groups gave money to the elected officials. (The NRA contributed at least $3,000 to Rep. Howard Coble’s most recent campaign, according to Yes! Weekly.) Look at the difference in campaign contributions from pro-gun lobby and the gun control lobby.

Remind your readers/viewers of the history of the 2nd Amendment, as that seems to be pivotal in the thinking of some legislators. Here is a good primer from the New Yorker. (It wasn’t until the 1980s that the right of citizens to bear virtually any arms became the prevailing legal interpretation.)

Here is a good place to start. Some senators have promised legislation in January. Where are our two senators on them?

It’s not just guns. Tell me where the state legislators stand on mental health support and funding. With the GOP controlling the General Assembly and the governor’s office, there will be momentum in cutting taxes, which generally means cutting services. Will mental health services be on the chopping block again?

From WRAL: Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, a proponent of mental health services in the state, says most people in North Carolina with mental health issues don’t have any health insurance, and they don’t qualify for Medicaid. That’s why, she says, many are in and out of jail and crowding emergency rooms to get help.

Are schools protected well enough? Do we need more resource officers? Do we pay teachers enough? There is this silly argument about arming teachers — will we pay for that training?

Are This is my personal plea not to let this issue drop once a few weeks pass. There is still a lot of good journalism to be had here.

8 thoughts on “Beyond the Newtown killings, there is journalism to be done

  1. I’d go a little farther, and not just look at the NRA’s rating and funding (which is a good thing to know, by the way) but also add in donations from Brady Campaign, or any other political or issue organization that takes a stand on gun control, for or against.
    The best thing any journalist can do, in my mind, is to help me determine what agendas are being pushed on my elected officials and then let me decide how I feel about it and if I agree with that stand.

    • I agree. And on the Brady Campaign, I couldn’t find as easily a list of contributions to candidates, which is why I linked to the more general pages about contributions from pro and anti gun PACs.

  2. How about this… A gun fee collected at the time of purchase to be used to train school teachers how to safely handle guns. I was a certified NC Hunter Safety Instructor several years ago. I would have no trouble teaching the teachers proper weapon handling, as long as someone covered the ammo costs.

  3. I believe Don *is* serious and his position is being bandied about this week. But your point, John, seems to be that you want journalists to go beyond the wire stories (with the emotional photos & tidbits of “anything new”) to collecting information, analyzing it and producing something that is original and pertinent to our state or region. Is that what you want?

    So do I. I can read wire online. I want to know what’s going on locally – and not, “I know someone who lived in Newtown in 2006” – some research and analysis. Something thought up, researched and written by a local reporter. I think that’s too much to ask. I also miss my first paragraphs in stories, remember? Those 5 Ws?

    • I want to go beyond the talking points that politicians throw out. No specifics. No responding to direct questions with direct answers. You took money from the NRA, how beholden to that organization are you? The Second Amendment doesn’t necessarily mean that gun access can’t be restricted. Would you limit assault weapons? Cartridges that can hold more than, say, 10 shells? Armor-piercing bullets? You voted to cut mental health benefits. Would you support funding so that those with signs of mental illness can have greater access to help?

      This isn’t difficult. It’s only politicians that don’t want to offend people with a position that make it difficult. Reporters shouldn’t let them off the hook this time. If they keep the pressure on, politicians will signal their positions. That’s what I’m asking for.

  4. Nice, John. Thank you.

    What would you call journalism that answers your questions? It’s not “solutions journalism” yet, it’s more like “understanding the problem” journalism. Is there a tag for this? And is there a tag for “questions that, if answered, yield “solutions journalism”?”

    Better yet, is there a “wider journalism ombudsman” org – something like a Knight Science Journalism Tracker, but proactive, or else a PEJ-like org that tries to feature&incite particular “E” stories – that would serve as a clearinghouse for such Qs?
    (Maybe Poynter, but it seems all over the map, I’m thinking something more focused.)

    I ask in part because I just read a high-profile article that begs for a solutions-oriented followup, yet I don’t know where to offer the Qs that need to be asked, or else, if I do it myself (ideally with others, but who?), where to offer a story that answers them.

    • Hi, Anna. Great hearing from you again.

      Really, I just call it journalism. But depending upon where it leads, it could be explanatory journalism or investigative journalism.

      As to your larger point, I wish I knew.

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