January 12, 2013

 

On Friday Fox News’s Sean Hannity addressed an alleged outrage against some citizens of New York state. The Journal News, a paper covering the lower Hudson Valley, had printed the names and addresses of gun owners in its coverage area. Hannity brought a subset — more than 20 folks — of the irked gun owners into the Fox studios to hear their grievances.

The theme of evening was invasion of privacy. Hannity proclaimed:

Thanks to the newspaper’s president and publisher, Janet Hasson, and Rockland editor Caryn McBride, the families of the people right there, sitting behind me in our audience, have now been put at risk and their privacy completely trampled on.

 

When Hannity asked the crowd whether they felt their privacy had been invaded, a near unanimous showing of hands went up.

All those raised hands raised a question: If their privacy was so embattled, why deepen the invasion by appearing on the country’s No. 1 cable news outlet? The show, after all, put the names of several gun owners right there on the screen, for all those criminals to record.

So the “Hannity” broadcast essentially re-published the names of these privacy-infringed people. Isn’t that a problem? When the Erik Wemple Blog today put that question to one of the people in the Hannity focus group, the gun owner replied: “Look, the Journal News story has been on Al Jazeera – it’s known internationally now. Fox News, that’s nothing extra,” said the participant.

Fair enough — once you’re out, you’re out. Two other mitigating factors: Fox News didn’t publish the gun owners’ address and it appears to have procured the say-so of the gun owners before putting their names on the air. The Journal News didn’t offer that courtesy.

Still: The Journal News, as Fox itself has pointed out, has a punky weekday circulation of less than 70,000. “Hannity” reliably hauls in more than two million viewers.
That these folks would put forth their names on such a prominent cable-news source speaks to a couple of dynamics:

*Privacy concerns shrink a bit when weighed against the appeal of hanging out with Sean Hannity at the Fox studios to gripe about privacy;

*In their hearts, these gun owners sense what that Tennessee study found — namely, that the publication of gun permit details has a way of protecting permit holders. One of the attendees even said as much, showing concern about non-gun people.

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