January 7, 2013
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

After publishing its super-controversial story and map identifying gun permit holders in two New York counties, the Journal News hunkered down. It issued a statement or two about its activities and rebuffed interview request after interview request.

Then it opened up to the New York Times’s Christine Haughney.

The news? That Journal News staffers up and down the masthead have received threats in connection with the story:

Personal information about editors and writers at the paper has been posted online, including their home addresses and information about where their children attended school; some reporters have received notes saying they would be shot on the way to their cars; bloggers have encouraged people to steal credit card information of Journal News employees; and two packages containing white powder have been sent to the newsroom and a third to a reporter’s home (all were tested by the police and proved to be harmless).

The paper’s management is assisting fearful staffers by paying for them to stay at hotels and having guards walk them to their cars, among other measures.

The New York Times story, too, confirms the impression cast by the Journal News piece — namely, that it was a slap-dash effort constructed without a great deal of forethought. Dwight Worley, the staffer who by-lined the piece, came back from seeking interviews with the families of Newtown victims, and here’s how things came together:

Mr. Worley started putting out requests for public information that Monday, receiving the data from Westchester County that day and from Rockland County three days later. All the editors involved said there were not any formal meetings about the article, although it came up at several regular news meetings. [Editor CynDee] Royle, who had been at The Journal News in 2006 when the newspaper published similar data, without mapping it or providing street numbers, said that editors discussed publishing the data in at least three meetings.

In other words, the paper merely dumped the data, licensing the rest of the world to hammer it for exposing and shaming gun permit holders.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.