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Objectivity of “To Lower Suicide Rates New Focus Turns to Guns”

by on February 15, 2013

Although reporting should be an accurate representation of an event through all sides, many times reporters tend to be “lazy,” and find their quotes stemming from the two polar opposite views of a subject.  

While the likeliness of this kind of case being black and white is rare, it is still found easily amongst stories in the news. This story about guns and suicide deaths, for example, is a victim of this sort of reporting. 

The reporter sticks with a few basic people with strong values for interviews. First is the family of a suicide victim, a family very much in love with their guns and very unlike what most other families would be like in this situation. Next come psychiatric professionals who specialize in suicide prevention, so of course their views will be the polar opposite, thinking guns are evil. 

One quote thrown in does break this trend, with a psychiatric professional saying” It’s not about taking away people’s guns. It’s about how to deal with folks in a temporary crisis,“ which has an interesting take, as usually professionals in this type of setting will completely take one side or the other. 

However, almost all the interviewees in this story are gun-lovers. They’re statements are not objective. And knowing the reporter’s background, whether or not he/she was a gun owner or member of the NRA, would be good insight for this article.  

The questions I have are, what about other families who are victims to gun suicides? Yes, this family is fine with keeping their guns, but I can’t help but feel they’re a minority in that sense. Shouldn’t the reporter have interviewed multiple other families, with more moderate views on guns and gun control, to make this story well rounded?

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3 Comments
  1. Felicia Cohen permalink

    This story, which I agree, has a heavy focus on the ‘pro-gun’ side of the argument, makes me wonder who exactly the reporter of this story is. Though it is a New York Times article, written about a suicide inDayton, Wyoming, the reporter, Sabrina Tavernise made the decision to include those quotes, participating in ‘he said-she said’ journalism. Maybe this author had grown up in a household with guns or is an anti-gun activist who set out not to have bias in the article. Since it is lopsided, she should have considered giving her background on the matter, in accordance to Rosen, if any factors of her life where relevent to her reporting.

  2. I agree with you that this article is definitely weighted with far too many quotes from people on complete extreme opposites of the gun debate spectrum. Also, the family used in the story as the example, and whom the majority of the quotes comes from, does hold a view that is undoubtedly rare. I think this makes the story seem very irrelevant to most people, and the article would have benefitted from quotes from other families that have lost someone to a gun suicide, maybe a family that does not have such a strong attachment to their guns, to balance out the views.

    I have questioned Jay Rosen’s call for reporters to reveal where they are from and what their personal point of view is, but I think this story is a great example of a case where knowing the journalist’s perspective would have been beneficial to the reader. To me, reading this article it did seem clear that the journalist was more on the ‘pro-gun’ side of the argument. Maybe this article would have been more effective, and honest, if we did know a little more about the journalist.

  3. I am not exactly sure if I agree with the fact that the author’s background and personal opinion should be included in this article. I do find that Jay Rosen’s idea on how reporters need to sotp simply just include quotes from two directly opposing sides in order to seem objective is true, but I don’t know if it really fits this article. I believe that in some cases it is good for the journalist to add his or her own personal experiences, maybe if the author had an experience with a gun suicide. I also agree that this family must be one in only a few families that would keep their guns after a suicide, but maybe that is what the article is about. The fact that some people want to keep their guns even after a shocking and gun-related tragedy happens in their family. I do like how the journalist included the hard facts about gun ownership as well such as how suicide rates are higher in states that have less strict gun laws. I feel as if this blanches out the article a bit, but I do still agree that some other quotes need to be included from groups that aren’t so radical.

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