Gun ignorance in the news


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tactidrool
March 23, 2011, 06:42 PM
I work in the news industry, and I often read stories that betray a reporter's ignorance when it comes to firearms. I just came across this paragraph from an Associated Press story about violence today in Syria:

Heavy shooting rattled Daraa throughout the day, and an Associated Press reporter in the city heard bursts of semi-automatic gunfire echoing in its old center in the early afternoon.

"Bursts of semi-automatic gunfire"?

I also regularly find reporters write or say "semi-automatic pistol," when the "semi-automatic" is, for the most part, not needed, but it must sound more frightening that way in their minds.

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kingpin008
March 23, 2011, 06:47 PM
Not to be rude, but this problem isn't new. Having worked in the industry, have you come across any methods of correcting these inaccuracies? Any tips for those of us who are merely consumers, to get our message across when we try to write or call in to correct them?

eye5600
March 23, 2011, 06:51 PM
Not to be rude, but this problem isn't new. Having worked in the industry, have you come across any methods of correcting these inaccuracies? Any tips for those of us who are merely consumers, to get our message across when we try to write or call in to correct them?

I think every big city newspaper or similar new organization should hire a veteran. There are plenty of very good journalists in the military, and they would bring a great perspective to a civilian employer, as well as limit the number really dumb errors.

tactidrool
March 23, 2011, 08:09 PM
Having worked in the industry, have you come across any methods of correcting these inaccuracies?

I correct those kinds of mistakes whenever I see them, and also do my best to educate reporters and other editors whenever I come across them -- without being overbearing.

I enjoy seeing the lights come on when someone learns the differences between semi-automatic and automatic, or when they learn of other issues they have long been misinformed about. But it's frustrating to see it so regularly.

danez71
March 23, 2011, 08:27 PM
"Bursts of semi-automatic gunfire"?

I dont see this as "ignorance".

What is sooooo bad about it that makes you think its ignorance?

Cant there be bursts of semi-auto gunfire?

Heck, there can be bursts of single shot gun fire if multiple people are shooting.

tactidrool
March 23, 2011, 08:52 PM
Cant there be bursts of semi-auto gunfire?
Heck, there can be bursts of single shot gun fire if multiple people are shooting.

I could be wrong, but it appears to me that the reporter was trying to describe automatic gunfire, as he mentioned it was heavy fighting, and these were government forces firing on civilian protesters. If it were semi-automatic fire, why even describe it as "bursts of semi-automatic" fire?

I guess we wouldn't know for sure unless we asked the reporter exactly what he heard, or ask him to explain the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, and we could see if he is able to use the accurate terms for what he is reporting on.

danez71
March 24, 2011, 09:19 AM
....why even describe it as "bursts of semi-automatic" fire?


Maybe...... he heard gunfire that sounded faster than a bolt action or revolver and slower than fully automatic....and when he heard it, it was in 'bursts' rather than 'steady' or 'continuous'....?

I guess I just dont see this as blantantly bad reporting/description.

svtruth
March 24, 2011, 11:36 AM
you could add a section to your organization's stylebook. I would think that there would be actual positive financial outcomes from being more authoritative.

Single Action Six
March 24, 2011, 01:45 PM
I don't see it as "ignorance", but rather as the media going along in its daily Anti-Gun rhetoric.

[Rant On] :banghead:

For the past several (and I'll say that again.. several) "YEARS" now I've consistently written to a number of my local newspaper reporters (along with the newspaper editors) about the blatant firearms misinformation found within the articles.. especially when it comes to the "local crime in the news" section.

Many times I've informed them of the errors.. and include various links to the internet which give them the correct information, but all for naught! The very next day what do I see? More misinformation. The same that I wrote to them about yesterday, the day before.. and the day before that. My conclusion is they don't care to report what's right or correct.

What possible excuse can be given by a reporter (the same reporter I've correct in the past), when it's pointed out to them (via internet links), that there's no such thing as a revolver spewing hundreds of rounds per minute.. bullets (no, it's empty shell casings) scattered throughout the street.. clips (it's magazines dummy) that hold "?" number of rounds.. the firearm used in the crime was a small black (not this again) "automatic".. etc., etc.

What really irks me to no end is when I point out these mistakes (and the ensuing correct information) I'm often told.. "well, that's what the Police told me" by the reporter! I hate to tell ya there pardner, but in most cases the Police are the last ones you want to get your firearms information from. Just because they wear a gun on their hip daily doesn't mean they're the most knowledgeable person to be getting this information from.

[Rant Off]

Ok. I'll get off my anti-media bias now. ;)

Single Action Six

BigN
March 24, 2011, 02:09 PM
I don't think the person who reported the news blatantly misreported, but I do think he just has no idea what he's talking about. This ignorance of firearms is evident every single day, bar none, in the news, and on tv in general. The people reporting (not all but most) have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to guns. I think in certain instances and on certain networks, the information is intentionally skewed to make it sound more dramatic or make it sound like the guns are more dangerous than they actually are, but overall I'd say these limp-wristed, silver-spoon fed hippies who call themselves reporters are totally ignorant of guns in general...

Malamute
March 24, 2011, 02:16 PM
I've found this to be helpful

NG VI
March 24, 2011, 02:25 PM
Maybe he just doesn't know what the word "semi" means?

Dbl0Kevin
March 24, 2011, 02:30 PM
As much as it irks me to see mistakes made when referring to firearms in the media I think a lot of us are forgetting an important fact. Firearms are a point of interest for us, obviously since we are here, we read up on them, study them, and are quasi experts likely in whichever area we concentrate on. Journalists write stories about tons of topics every day and do not have the time or ability to become specialists in every one. I'm sure that there are plenty of stories on other issues that have wrong or improperly worded facts that we just breeze right over because we don't know anything about it either. So yes it's annoying, but in reality a lot of our expectations are unrealistic. How can you blame a reporter for including a blurb in a local crime story detailing what was told to them by the police? Do you honestly expect the reporter to do in depth investigation and get more facts on some passing story that won't even be a memory by next week?

LJ-MosinFreak-Buck
March 24, 2011, 10:04 PM
IMHO, if you're going to report something, doesn't matter the topic, DO THE RESEARCH FIRST. They make themselves look like idiots, even if it's the local LEO's telling them what happened, what was used, and all of that jazz. If they'd do the research, they'd probably be better off and have better ratings because they don't sound like too-far-left, ignorant little children. But, I guess it's how the world goes. :mad:

Single Action Six
March 24, 2011, 10:29 PM
As much as it irks me to see mistakes made when referring to firearms in the media I think a lot of us are forgetting an important fact. Firearms are a point of interest for us, obviously since we are here, we read up on them, study them, and are quasi experts likely in whichever area we concentrate on. Journalists write stories about tons of topics every day and do not have the time or ability to become specialists in every one. I'm sure that there are plenty of stories on other issues that have wrong or improperly worded facts that we just breeze right over because we don't know anything about it either. So yes it's annoying, but in reality a lot of our expectations are unrealistic. How can you blame a reporter for including a blurb in a local crime story detailing what was told to them by the police? Do you honestly expect the reporter to do in depth investigation and get more facts on some passing story that won't even be a memory by next week?

I never asked the journalist to become a expert in firearms.. and no, I don't expect them to do a in depth investigation to gather more facts, but yes, my expectations are such that after I've told the same reporter six, seven, or eight times in a row now (along with internet links) that it's NOT a "AUTOMATIC" pistol (sub-Machine gun) that was used, but rather a "Semi-Automatic" I expect (NO, I demand) that they get their facts correct.

I suppose if the Police told them there was a big downtown accident between a Civil War submarine and a Inter-Galactic space ship from Mars they would just blindly report it. There are people who work at "Mickey D's" handing out french fries who I have more confidence in.

Single Action Six

trippstadt
March 24, 2011, 10:31 PM
As much as it irks me to see mistakes made when referring to firearms in the media I think a lot of us are forgetting an important fact. Firearms are a point of interest for us, obviously since we are here, we read up on them, study them, and are quasi experts likely in whichever area we concentrate on. Journalists write stories about tons of topics every day and do not have the time or ability to become specialists in every one. I'm sure that there are plenty of stories on other issues that have wrong or improperly worded facts that we just breeze right over because we don't know anything about it either. So yes it's annoying, but in reality a lot of our expectations are unrealistic. How can you blame a reporter for including a blurb in a local crime story detailing what was told to them by the police? Do you honestly expect the reporter to do in depth investigation and get more facts on some passing story that won't even be a memory by next week?

Dbl0Kevin's message above makes a lot of sense to me.

I've never read a story in a newspaper about which I had significant inside knowledge that did not contain some obvious (to me) factual errors.

I can't explain why attempts to inform reporters have been unsuccessful, but no reporter I've ever known actually WANTS readers (ANY readers, even "gun nuts") to think they're ignorant. In addition to Kevin's point, the truth is that to most reporters, each story is like a book report that is due in two hours and they haven't even finished reading the book yet. It's just that day's assignment, not some sacred mission to inform the public. It is what it is.

Having said that, I do wish to assert that if you are a reporter, and your beat is violent crime, or you're covering a war, you really should be expected to know enough about the weapons involved to avoid such obvious errors.

willypete
March 24, 2011, 10:40 PM
I think every big city newspaper or similar new organization should hire a veteran.

Most veterans and active duty military personnel are pretty ignorant about guns, unless they were in a job that required them to use guns. Even then, they may only be knowledgeable regarding those specific platforms they were trained to use.

btg3
March 24, 2011, 10:43 PM
...you really should be expected to know enough about the weapons involved to avoid such obvious errors.

Let see how that shoe fits on the other foot... "Anyone posting in the English language should know enough about grammar, spelling, and syntax to avoid errors that are obvious to a reporter."

LJ-MosinFreak-Buck
March 24, 2011, 10:43 PM
But they would know the difference between auto, semi auto and bolt, pistol vs. smg... clip vs. mag... the list can go on.

trippstadt
March 24, 2011, 10:56 PM
Let see how that shoe fits on the other foot... "Anyone posting in the English language should know enough about grammar, spelling, and syntax to avoid errors that are obvious to a reporter."
"Let see"? Don't need to be a reporter to see the problem there.

Reporters desperately need their editors to ensure correct grammar, spelling, and syntax.

Regardless, I truly do not understand your point. Do you agree that reporters who are in a war zone writing about a war should attempt to acquire at least a basic understanding of the weapons about which they are writing, or are you implying that it's unreasonable to expect them to do so?

bbuddtec
March 24, 2011, 10:57 PM
malamute (#11) thanks for the serious laughter ohhhh. my wife had to know what I was laughing at lol.

Poignant? I imagine so...

As for the rest... they basically all have the same "anti" schooling, so they really don't know and don't think it's important to be specific, to them guns are bad no matter how you slice 'em. In reality, they are artists, and are using "artistic license"...it's their words on what they are relaying, and they know that. Throw in the mix that they are typical lazy workers, this is what you get.. they are on their next exploit already.

Brock Landers
March 25, 2011, 03:49 AM
If you really want to be appalled, read the comments section on any New York Times story or opinion piece involving guns. Normally the Times is my favorite paper, and the journalists themselves usually at least make an effort to educate themselves regarding what they are writing about, but they get some people making comments on there who really haven't a clue what they are talking about; all of them firmly anti-gun, of course. One that sticks out in my mind was a person who referred to a receiver as a part that you attach to a gun to make it fully automatic.

danez71
March 25, 2011, 09:00 AM
Originally Posted by btg3
Let see how that shoe fits on the other foot... "Anyone posting in the English language should know enough about grammar, spelling, and syntax to avoid errors that are obvious to a reporter."

too-shaaay


Regardless, I truly do not understand your point. Do you agree that reporters who are in a war zone writing about a war should attempt to acquire at least a basic understanding of the weapons about which they are writing, ....

I'll take that 1/2 step farther.

I personally think its not reasonable for a reporter to have a basic understanding of every facet of war and the all machinery involved, from every country involved in the multi national effort, including regional politics, tribal customs, local laws etc etc etc.

They're reporters.... not educators.

I also think the public should be able to dechipher what they hear/read.

I dont think that the public should believe every word heard/read.

There is some personal responsibility still left in this world... isnt there?

For example, whe you read a gun review... dont you still evaluate it for yourself?

Dejavu
March 25, 2011, 10:27 AM
A 20 round magazine can be emptied rather quickly with a fast finger on semi-auto, so I think you could justify calling it a "burst of fire". Certainly not as fast of a "burst" as a full auto "burst", but still fast.

I think you have a different time definition of what constitutes a "burst" than does the author and editor of the piece you read.

I am not sure anything else needs to be read into this. There are so many other gun control issues towards which we all could expend the energy this thread is requiring.

Just my $0.02.

answerguy
March 25, 2011, 10:43 AM
The media is never wrong, just ask them.

Banks said, ďA search was conducted and a 9mm, silver semi-automatic revolver matching the one used during the robbery and cash that was taken from the victim were

http://www.albanyherald.com/news/headlines/Violent_crimes_reported_by_APD_117779383.html?ref=383

(yes, I know there is such a thing as a semi-automatic revolver but it's not likely that's what was found in this search)

eye5600
March 25, 2011, 12:20 PM
The phrase that really annoys me is "fully loaded," as in "the man had a fully loaded 9mm handgun." The adjective "fully" is just an intensifier. Does the reporter really know how many rounds are in the magazine?

Gun guys should realize that word usage changes and non-shooters may use old phrases. Referring to a revolver as a pistol, for example, was once pretty common. Clip and magazine were once more interchangeable than they are now, and there has always been some confusion an "automatic pistol" and an "auto-loading pistol."

answerguy
March 25, 2011, 12:24 PM
The phrase that really annoys me is "fully loaded," as in "the man had a fully loaded 9mm handgun." The adjective "fully" is just an intensifier. Does the reporter really know how many rounds are in the magazine?

Gun guys should realize that word usage changes and non-shooters may use old phrases. Referring to a revolver as a pistol, for example, was once pretty common. Clip and magazine were once more interchangeable than they are now, and there has always been some confusion an "automatic pistol" and an "auto-loading pistol."

They use word like that because they know they will get 'called out' if they say 'evil gun'.

rajb123
March 25, 2011, 03:52 PM
I was working on business in Bogata Columbia in 2005 and there was an attack by a militant group around 10pm one night. Apparently, they are trying to overthrow the government...

....there were many bursts of automatic gun-fire.....followed by morters....it lasted at least 5 minutes

This was only a block or two away from the hotel..... very scary.


Anyway, I don't consider the term "bursts of semi-automatic gun fire" from news reporters to be that ignorant....

Obviously, if these events were trully "bursts of gun fire" it would be from a fully auto weapon and this would be very rare in the USA.

Double Naught Spy
March 25, 2011, 04:06 PM
I work in the news industry, and I often read stories that betray a reporter's ignorance when it comes to firearms. I just came across this paragraph from an Associated Press story about violence today in Syria:

I could be wrong, but it appears to me that the reporter was trying to describe automatic gunfire, as he mentioned it was heavy fighting, and these were government forces firing on civilian protesters. If it were semi-automatic fire, why even describe it as "bursts of semi-automatic" fire?

So you post a thread in order to call a reporter "ignorant" only then to admit that you could be wrong, but that it was your interpretation that the reporter must have been trying to describe automatic gunfire?

In other words, you weren't there, but you are calling the reporter ignorant in describing a situation about which you are personally ignorant?

I think you have betrayed your own ignorance.

rajb123
March 25, 2011, 04:56 PM
...for non-gun owners the term "burst" is subjective. This burst the reporter heard was probably from a semi-automatic gun.

To a gun owner, there would be no mistaking a burst from an automatic gun (e.g., machine gun) and a semi-auto.

Larry E
March 25, 2011, 07:13 PM
What never fails to grate on my nerves is the term "bullet casings" which having shot for over 55 years and reloaded for 40+ years I have never seen. Or calling cartridges "bullets" which indicates a total lack of knowledge, willingness to learn anything, and happiness to be in a state of ignorance.

This is only topped by "semi-automatic revolver" and a 25 mm handgun (a King County, WA, council woman) fired by an obviously very big and mean dude. :evil:

hammerklavier
March 25, 2011, 07:49 PM
The term semi-automatic is junk.

First, self loading pistols have long been called "automatics" my grandpa calls them automatics and he's an avid gun owner. Tintin calls them automatics.

Second, from a linguistics standpoint, since automatic means it does it for you (loads the next round) then semi-automatic would mean that it sometimes does it for you and sometimes doesn't.

How about "automatics" and "machine-guns"?

TexasBill
March 26, 2011, 09:49 AM
A reporter wants to get the most "bang" for his literary buck so he's going to be inclined to use words that will elicit a stronger response from his readers.

As to nomenclature: I remember when I played "Clue" as a kid. The solution would be "Col. Mustard in the library with the revolver" when the playing piece was clearly an M1911. Even as a kid, that drove me nuts but I never knew anyone else who even noticed. The same with "magazine" and "clip," "bullet" and "cartridge" and so on.

I don't care if they get the names wrong. I just want them to get the other facts straight.

Pistol Ranch
March 26, 2011, 09:55 AM
Media and ignorance is synomymous :rolleyes:

P.R.

A strange person
March 26, 2011, 10:37 AM
I like that the media is ignorant about firearms. In general, I like it when the public is ignorant about things I am interested in. It makes me feel like I have arcane knowledge or something.

forgetitohio
March 26, 2011, 12:27 PM
Evertime there a gun involved the local news station shows a semi-auto reguardless.
If it's a rifle shooting they show a AK type weapon on the screen behind them.
I was watching Cops and the cop called a revolver a semi-auto. duh

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. (Don't overdo it.) - Lao-Tse

Neverwinter
March 26, 2011, 12:33 PM
I expected that the reporter was trying to describe brief, repetitive series of gunfire and happened to use a word connected to a specific technical meaning within the domain of firearms. Although it's possible they were trying to use one of the other definitions such as "a sudden outbreak;"

tactidrool
March 26, 2011, 03:41 PM
In other words, you weren't there, but you are calling the reporter ignorant in describing a situation about which you are personally ignorant?

I think you have betrayed your own ignorance.

Well that's a little bit mean, isn't it?

It's also just slightly illogical, because you are comparing to different things: An accusation of a reporter's possible ignorance about guns when he was there and reports on war and fighting (and that kind of ignorance is avoidable), and an accusation of a message board poster's ignorance about what happened in a faraway country when he has to rely on a reporter's reporting (and that ignorance is unavoidable, because of course I wasn't there, so I have to make conclusions based on what the reporter tells me, and thus we get to the debate about "bursts").

I was using the story to illustrate a broader trend of general ignorance in news reporting about guns, something we've all seen numerous times. The way the sentence was written, with the reporter talking about "heavy shooting" from government forces in the beginning of the sentence, indicates that the reporter actually heard automatic firing (probably AKs). But that is neither here nor there.

The larger point is very valid. Working here at the two newspapers I edit for, I regularly have to correct gun ignorance among news reporters (and other editors). You probably wouldn't be too surprised at how many "assault rifles" I have had to delete from stories about semi-automatic rifles.

GEM
March 26, 2011, 04:46 PM
What else is new? I get a historical novel on CD from the library to listen to when I drive. It's about Napoleon. In the first few minutes, Napoleon is in Egypt and describes how he loves the smell of cordite after a battle.

That sunk that novel.

General Geoff
March 26, 2011, 05:17 PM
Mainstream media is ignorant about most technical subjects. We just happen to nitpick about guns because we know better.

Assume that everything the news says about a technical subject with which you are unfamiliar, is grossly erroneous.

tactidrool
March 26, 2011, 05:55 PM
Assume that everything the news says about a technical subject with which you are unfamiliar, is grossly erroneous.

My experience in the news business tells me you are exactly right.

GEM
March 26, 2011, 06:00 PM
Was listening to the radio and heard someone one a lottery for $300 billion dollars. My, those decimal places are to understand.

NMGonzo
March 26, 2011, 07:16 PM
OP is new here ...

Old news to most of us.

You will get used to.

d2wing
March 27, 2011, 07:26 PM
I don't expect much detailed accuracy from reporters, based on experience. After all , how many well informed smart liberals can there be? Where errors really grate me is in a novel when a glaring error disrupts the story.

Yoda
March 28, 2011, 08:57 PM
Wife and I were driving cross country, listening to a book on tape. The heroine, a San Francisco police woman detective, "flips the safety off her Glock." I don't know. I don't have any Glocks, but unless it's some local modification required by San Francisco, who knows? BTW: This was from one of the top authors in the field.

At least she didn't flip the safety off her revolver...

- - - Yoda

Dulvarian
March 28, 2011, 09:44 PM
I too have seen the author of a top selling fiction novel take the safety off his Glock. :what: I don't know how you shoot the bad guys if you take the trigger out...

And I have an acquaintance that does cowboy action shooting. And he can 'burst fire' a SA revolver faster than most people can fire a semi. And he's derned accurate as well.

Sky
March 28, 2011, 09:51 PM
Burst of semi and automatic gun fire could be heard in the distance...

Double Naught Spy
March 28, 2011, 11:49 PM
Well that's a little bit mean, isn't it?


Interesting, you can intimate or even state ignorance of somebody else, but when you demonstrate it yourself and are called on the deck for it, you cry foul.

It's also just slightly illogical, because you are comparing to different things: An accusation of a reporter's possible ignorance about guns when he was there and reports on war and fighting (and that kind of ignorance is avoidable), and an accusation of a message board poster's ignorance about what happened in a faraway country when he has to rely on a reporter's reporting (and that ignorance is unavoidable, because of course I wasn't there, so I have to make conclusions based on what the reporter tells me, and thus we get to the debate about "bursts").


Got it, two different things. The first is a topic distant to the reporter's knowledge and the second is a topic geographically distant to you. Either way, neither of you necessarily has the knowledge base to properly discuss the subject. In short, you picked a really bad example and didn't realize it.

I was using the story to illustrate a broader trend of general ignorance in news reporting about guns, something we've all seen numerous times.
Yes, I can see you work in the industry.

The way the sentence was written, with the reporter talking about "heavy shooting" from government forces in the beginning of the sentence, indicates that the reporter actually heard automatic firing (probably AKs). But that is neither here nor there.

This is what I love about folks who know better what is going on than the person there. You have decided the reporter was ignorant without knowing the information first hand. In other words, you are ignorant of the specific situation being reported.

The larger point is very valid. Working here at the two newspapers I edit for, I regularly have to correct gun ignorance among news reporters (and other editors). You probably wouldn't be too surprised at how many "assault rifles" I have had to delete from stories about semi-automatic rifles.

The larger point may be valid, but your example here failed. You should have picked a story dealing with a specific fact that you could actually verify, and hence not be ignorant about the original data.

Interesting that you are some sort of editor. From your OP...
I also regularly find reporters write or say "semi-automatic pistol," when the "semi-automatic" is, for the most part, not needed, but it must sound more frightening that way in their minds.

While this might be an interesting seque to some, it really has nothing to do with reporter ignorance. "Semi-auto" may not be needed, but that isn't because the reporter is ignorant about guns and the information is incorrect. What you apparently don't realize is that a revolver is also considered a pistol. There are also single shot and multi-barrel pistols. "Pistol" is synonymous with "handgun." http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FirearmsGlossary/

Ignition Override
March 29, 2011, 12:38 AM
I've seen three young reporters in action, and was dismayed by the crude, ignorant, inappropriate joke (about the instructor of a guy who ran a rented plane between two trees-at least it stopped), made by the first reporter in '78 ("KC Evening Star"), and two others here with the "Memphis Commercial Appeal" not long ago.

The youngsters I saw were too young to know much about anything. Some use their media jobs as a booster to the (higher-paying) entertainment industry.

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