Everything That’s Wrong (And Right) With Journalism Can Be Found In The Missourian

posted on April 21, 2017

Which news organization asks the following question: 

“Which organization is more dangerous to Americans—ISIS or the NRA?” 

  1. Al Jazeera
  2. The New York Times
  3. CNN
  4. Media Matters
  5. Al Jazeera

Yes, it’s a trick question—not because one of the usual suspects is listed twice, but because we would believe it came from any of these sources. It did not. 

No, this inspired bit of journalism came from the heartland of America—the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism’s newspaper, The Missourian. The author, George Kennedy, is a former managing editor of the newspaper, which is staffed by journalism students. On April 20, he penned an op-ed under the ominous warning, “The NRA’s influence is a danger to us all.” In it, this supposed paragon of journalistic virtue equated ISIS terrorism with NRA advocacy—resulting in a shining example of everything currently wrong with journalism in America. 

Let’s check the work of the esteemed professor emeritus. 

Kennedy compares the murder-suicide of an elementary school teacher and a special needs student at the hands of the teacher’s violent estranged husband with the introduction of a bill in the Missouri House to further reduce the number of government-mandated gun-free zones. This supposed paragon of journalistic virtue equated ISIS terrorism with NRA advocacy.

However, instead of explaining why he thinks it’s a bad idea to allow permit-holding citizens to carry their firearms in vulnerable areas where they might be able to make a difference, he merely quotes a Democratic legislator: “Is this for show, or is it for real?” 

Bad form, professor. If you want to equate a lawful, trained armed citizen with a murdering, abusive husband, you’re going to have to do more than make a cheap appeal to our emotions. You’re going to have to explain why the number of concealed-carry permits is rising nationally, while the national homicide rate drops. You’re going to have to convince us that CCW holders pose a threat, when stats prove that they are more law-abiding than the general population, or even cops. You’re going to have to counter overwhelming evidence that mass murderers prefer gun-free zones, where they can pursue their evil ends relatively unopposed. Failure to do these things means … fail. 

Next, the professor compares ISIS to NRA: “ISIS is the acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. … NRA is the acronym for the National Rifle Association. …” They are similar, he infers, because ISIS is “feared around the world,” and NRA is “feared by politicians across America.” 

Let’s get our red pens out. Professor, are you seriously equating the world’s leading terrorist organization with the nation’s oldest civil rights organization—simply because they both go by acronyms? Why stop there? By that reasoning, half the companies in the Yellow Pages are terrorist organizations, too. That’s a cheap trick. 

You also wrote: “What makes ISIS so feared is its willingness to kill in pursuit of its goal. … What makes the NRA so feared is its willingness to spend heavily and campaign aggressively in pursuit of its goal. …” The only people who consider those activities morally equivalent are guests in asylums and maximum security detention facilities. 

Sit up and pay attention, Professor: ISIS is feared for beheading anyone who displeases them, including Christians, children and, ironically, journalists. NRA is feared for mobilizing millions of constituents to vote. Did you pause for a moment before cavalierly insulting 5 million law-abiding NRA members—veterans, cops, competitors, instructors, parents, hunters and young adults? Or was it just a convenient literary device? Is any reasonable person persuaded by this type of logic? Do you write to your mother with that pen, Professor? Fail again, for unsupportable logic. 

Finally, the professor veers off into another field in which he is profoundly unqualified—math. Citing a Business Insider article, he claims, “The odds of your being killed by a gunshot are 1 in 358.” 

Professor, did you fact-check this claim? By your own numbers, “15,079 Americans were killed by guns in 2016” (we note that you deftly avoid claiming that they were all killed by other people). Given a population of roughly 325 million, that means that .0046 percent of Americans were killed with a gun in 2016—which equals 1 chance in 21,553, a far cry from the professor’s 1 in 358. Professor, we must conclude that you are using statistics to baffle us with BS. Fail again, for not showing your work. 

I realize this is an opinion piece, as opposed to news, but shouldn’t some standards still apply? We could delve further into this mishmash, but why waste any more of our time? The professor’s paper is already awash in a sea of red ink. Fail, fail, fail.

It does bear mentioning, however, that the most egregious offense committed by the professor is not his writing—it’s his example. Incredibly, this man has been a professor at an American university renowned for its journalism school—yet he employs juvenile tactics, cheap obfuscations and outright misrepresentations to support a predetermined conclusion. It left me wondering: Is he now the standard of quality of education at the University of Missouri School of Journalism? 

Fortunately, America’s college students are famously capable of thinking for themselves. Individuals of this generation, more than any before them, are skeptical of authority figures, from whom they require more than just a title or a uniform before they award them with their trust. When instructed to fall in line by the politically correct, they are less inclined to exclaim, “Wait for me!” and more inclined to say, “Wait … what?” .0046 percent of Americans were killed with a gun in 2016—which equals 1 chance in 21,739, a far cry from the professor’s 1 in 358.

A sterling example can be found in the professor’s rant; he includes a link to another Missourian article covering the House bill on gun-free zones. It is a fair and balanced account of the facts, attributing quotes and positions to the players faithfully, and it avoids loaded language such as “gun violence.” For the life of me, I cannot detect a whiff that would reveal bias, one way or the other, on the part of the reporter—which is what they should be teaching at Mizzou, and every other J-school in the country. 

The reporter was Natalia Alamdari; her supervising editor, Mizzou Associate Professor Mark Horvit, confirmed she is a student. Kudos to Alamdari and Horvit for exhibiting the professionalism, and the respect for journalistic integrity, to leave me clueless about their personal politics. In the future, I will read Alamdari’s work in the faith that she will leave her politics in the parking lot before entering the workplace—and I thank her for respecting me enough to let me make up my own mind. 

As they say, the student shall become the teacher.

Clay Turner is the creative director for America’s 1st Freedom magazine, an official journal of the NRA, as well as the daily news website, Americas1stFreedom.org. He shoots just enough to maintain an A rating with the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA).



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