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How Do You Cover The Gun "Debate" When One Side Spouts Nonsense?

By       Message Eric Boehlert       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Reprinted from Media Matters


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Last week's depressingly predictable news from Oregon about another American gun massacre triggered what's now become a morose tradition of news coverage, not only about the mindless murders themselves, but also about the permanent stain of domestic gun violence. (This morning [Oct 9] brought news of yet another campus shooting.) With a presidential campaign underway, the Oregon coverage inevitably crossed over into political and campaign analysis. That meant high-profile Republican candidates weighed in on the issue and often tried to wave off as unfixable the epidemic of gun violence in America, where approximately 290 people are shot every day.

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Thanks to a string of truly bizarre ("stuff happens") and thoughtless comments from several GOP candidates, including one that seemed to place some blame on the Umpqua Community College victims for being shot, the so-called gun debate has managed to become even more baseless.

In other words, the Republican field is once again highlighting just how radical the party has become on key issues. And that poses a growing challenge for journalists.

"Rather than engaging in an honest effort to address gun violence and prevent more senseless carnage, practically every G.O.P. candidate has been reduced to repeating a mantra that many of them, surely, cannot fully believe," wrote The New Yorker's John Cassidy this week.

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The question becomes how does the press cover the unfolding Republican gun spectacle? And when do reporters and pundits step forward and point out that one side of the gun "debate" has not only lost touch with reality, but at times has lost touch with common decency? That query goes to the heart of informative political reporting.

Earlier this year, I posed a similar question about the campaign press: How do journalists deal with a lineup of Republican candidates who, ignoring an avalanche of scientific findings, cling to the outdated idea that humans don't contribute to climate change? Do journalists simply tell the truth and acknowledge the obvious holes in their arguments, or do they help carve out a new political space for climate deniers that allows their views to be seen as mainstream?

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