Newspaper fires up controversy
Mainstream media continues to denigrate those who simply own a registered firearm and enjoy target sports and hunting.
The latest attack in Melbourne’s Herald Sun was inspired by a single billboard celebrating the Olympic gold medal of Catherine Skinner and encouraging legal firearms owners to show their pride by posting to social media.
While the article includes quotes or paraphrasing from both sides — the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (AMF), which is anti-gun, and the Sporting Shooters Association, which is in favour of responsible and legal gun ownership — it still raises concerns. Peter Blunden, the Victorian managing director, editorial for News Corp is a board member of the AMF, and while we make no inference of undue influence, we have sought clarification on the basis for this latest article appearing.
“A controversial billboard on one of Melbourne’s busiest freeways is encouraging shooters to upload selfies with their hunted prey,” the newspaper suggested.
There is no controversy. The billboard featured an image of Olympic Gold medallist Catherine Skinner firing a shotgun at a clay target — exactly what she did to universal acclaim (including a splash in the Herald Sun) in Rio. The opposition of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to firearms is well known and so too is the viewpoint of legal gun owners, including clay target shooters and hunters. That these diametrically opposed viewpoints exist could hardly be the source of controversy. “The campaign encourages shooters to ‘show your love of shooting’ by sharing pictures on social media,” the article continued.
No controversy here either. While the AMF might oppose “any promotion of firearms in a way that normalises their use”, that is an extreme and unrealistic view in a free and open society. Shooters were encouraged to share images from their ordinary and legal pursuits in the field. It is worth noting none of the images was deemed offensive by the social media platforms.
Even so, here they were, described in the article as “graphic images of hunted animals”.
This is where we find the apparent controversy, which is deeply concerning given the role of the journalist in reporting news. Graphic in this tabloid context means shocking, disgusting, sickening — but where is the justification? In the article, the AMF does not raise concerns about the posted images other than that the promotion might “normalise” firearms use.
A simple search of #I am a shooter on Twitter a week after the article produced only a couple of images showing hunters with dead animals.
We understand that some people may not like to look at a dead pig, even though it is a pest animal that does enormous damage to the natural environment. The suggestion these images are controversial or graphic and the insinuation in the article is not justified.
Given the lack of any protagonist in the story we have to conclude that the “controversial” billboard and the graphic nature of the selfies it generated were added to create an adversarial ‘good Vs evil’ tone.
By omitting any reference to the majority of family images uploaded using the hashtag, the article drew an unflattering and unfair caricature of legal firearms owners.
The Herald Sun responded that the article was “reasonable and responsible.” We disagree and intend to take the matter to the Australian Press Council.