News­pa­per fires up con­tro­versy

Field and Game - - NEWS -

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.

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