Journal News hiding behind PR firm after gun-map fiasco
posted at 11:01 am on January 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Normally, one expects politicians and celebrities to go shopping for high-end public-relations firms to fend off journalists during and after a scandal. It’s quite another thing when a media outlet has to spend big money to fend off other media outlets. The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple reports that the newspaper that published an interactive map of gun-permit holders now has an expensive Manhattan firm dealing out the “no comments”:
Last week, the Erik Wemple Blog pressed Kathy Moore, an editor at the Journal News, for an interview regarding the newspaper’s very controversial maps of gun-permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties. We got turned down — not by Moore herself but by one Edmund Tagliaferri: “I just wanted to let you know that there isn’t going to be any further comment at this time.”
Who is Tagliaferri? He’s an executive vice president at DKC, a Manhattan public relations, marketing and government affairs firm. (According to his bio, he also put in 17 years as an “award-winning” journalist with the Journal News.)
In the days since that initial exchange, Tagliaferri is the fellow we turn to when we’re looking for a polite and timely interview rejection or a simple “no comment.” Seems like a pretty easy job, and one that the Journal News, which is owned by Gannett, could handle on its own without assistance from a Fifth Avenue PR firm.
Well, you’d think so anyway, but that assumes that a media organization should act like a Hollywood celebrity after a drunken night on the town. The Journal News is supposedly a news organization, no? Shouldn’t they be cooperating with media outlets, especially on a story about which they felt so strongly that they pulled that kind of a stunt in service of it?
Of course, the Journal News editorial staff may not be making those decisions any longer. The no-comment policy started last week, but the burglary at one of the homes identified on the map points to a much larger problem the Journal News created for its ownership. The victims of the crime can make a case that the burglary and their losses were related to the decision to publish their address and identify them as gun owners, and argue that the newspaper has liability for their losses and any other emotional and work-related damages. It’s going to be very hard for the Journal News to argue that there was no malicious intent in revealing the addresses of people who aren’t involved in any sort of legal issues or other newsworthy events as part of their crusade against guns. Any statements they make from this point forward might end up proving that malice, and as any good defense lawyer will instruct in liability cases, the defense starts with silence on the part of the respondents.
One might lament that kind of outcome in regard to a news organization, but the Journal News stopped being a news organization when they decided to act as activists and put law-abiding private citizens (including prison guards and people hiding from stalkers) at risk to satisfy their own sense of outrage over firearms. The new no-comment policy makes the transition all the more obvious.
With that in mind, here’s the latest from Project Veritas, which asked journalists — including a few from the Journal News — if they’d put up a sign in their yards saying that their homes were “proudly gun-free.” Not surprisingly, they’re less than enthusiastic about identifying the status of their own homes (via Twitchy):