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04/29/2005 Archived Entry: "NRA self-defense story -- a microcosm of bad journalism"

THIS STORY is a microcosm of everything that's gone wrong with journalism. The NRA gets a new law passed in Florida that (apparently) says that armed people don't have to retreat from violent threats in public. That they can confront an assailant outside of their homes.

The article tells us that bare fact. Repeats it a couple of times, even. Says the NRA plans to introduce the same legislation in many more states. But otherwise the story consists of nothing but opinion quotes. As is standard, these days, it doesn't even offer the bill number. (Only one of the 10 articles I browsed had the number -- and that wasn't actually an article, but the NRA news release.)

I feel like Clara Peller: "Where's the information?"

What motivates a "journalist" to believe that someone eles's opinions about law are more important than facts -- so much more important that they should replace, and not merely supplement or color facts?

Story also is a microcosm of how the print media doesn't get the Internet, even when it's on it. "Where's the link?"

I'm off to see if I can find the bill text now. Will post it if I can track it down before I have to get to work. (Later: Sorry, out of time. Reached the website of the Florida state legislature, but didn't find SB-436 (the bill in question) -- or in fact any laws or bills newer than 2004. Will keep after it. But I'll also bet some sharp reader will find the text before I do.)

Yep. Mystery Reader comes to the rescue: The Florida House bill. The Florida Senate bill.

LATER: Freedom42 also has the new law in .pdf format.

(I should also note -- because some reader will bring it up -- that this post isn't about good or bad law. There's no such thing as good law. It's about good or bad journalism. If a blog reader who isn't even from Florida and isn't being paid to do it can find real info on a bill, then surely a journalist could, would, and should.)

Posted by Claire @ 09:14 AM CST

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