The Lower Hudson Journal News has been under fire for publishing a map of gun permit holders in two counties in New York State before Christma. (APB coverage 1, 2, podcast). On Friday January 18 the paper removed the interactive map. Why? Publisher Janet Hasson gave answers in a media statement and in a letter to readers.
In a statement in response to The Poynter Institute (a journalism school) she argued:
With the passage this week of the NYSAFE gun law, which allows permit holders to request their names and addresses be removed from the public record, we decided to remove the gun permit data from lohud.com at 5 pm today. While the new law does not require us to remove the data, we believe that doing so complies with its spirit. For the past four weeks, there has been vigorous debate over our publication of the permit data, which has been viewed nearly 1.2 million times by readers. One of our core missions as a newspaper is to empower our readers with as much information as possible on the critical issues they face, and guns have certainly become a top issue since the massacre in nearby Newtown, Conn. Sharing as much public information as possible provides our readers with the ability to contribute to the discussion, in any way they wish, on how to make their communities safer. We remain committed to our mission of providing the critical public service of championing free speech and open records.
In a letter to readers published on Friday she wrote:
So intense was the opposition to our publication of the names and addresses that legislation passed earlier this week in Albany included a provision allowing permit holders to request confidentiality and imposing a 120-day moratorium on the release of permit holder data.
She goes on to say that during the 27 days the map was online any one interested would have seen it and that the data would eventually be out of date. She also noted that the paper does not endorse the way the state chose to limit availability of the data.
The original map/article still includes a graphic - but it's a snapshot, a raster image, with no interactivity. Says Hasson in the letter to readers:
And we will keep a snapshot of our map — with all its red dots — on our website to remind the community that guns are a fact of life we should never forget.
I continue to applaud the paper for requesting the data via a Freedom on Informat request, mapping it, keeping the map up despite threats and criticism and now responding to state law. I think the paper did a service to the state, to citizens and to journalism.
- via reader Jim and Poynter