NY Times: We Don’t Know Squat About Guns

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In a recent After Deadline Blog post (Newsroom Notes on Usage and Style) entitled ‘Getting Guns Right,’ the New York Times’ Philip B. Corbett acknowledged something The People of the Gun have known virtually since they could read. He quoted a correction the Times recently ran:

A picture caption on Thursday for a special report about Americans’ relationship with guns referred incorrectly to the gun that an 8-year-old boy used to kill his first turkey. It was a 20-gauge shotgun, not a .20-gauge.

In one sense, it’s a tiny lapse — an unnecessary decimal point. But it’s the type of error that might leave some skeptical readers wondering whether we know what we’re talking about on this subject.

Wait. You mean the Grey Lady has been expounding on subjects about which it knows, well, next to nothing? . . .

Say it ain’t so! And no, that wasn’t a porcine aviator buzzing past your window. Probably just some long-dead journalism professor spinning in his grave so fast he took flight.

Corbett recounts recent examples of gun pig-ignorance ripped from the Times’ pages; .9mm ammo, rifles in photos ID’d as shotguns, .22mm guns nabbed at TSA checkpoints. The usual firearms flubs easily made by scribes (and passed on by editors) whose closest contact with a gun has been yanking the trigger on a Super Soaker.

And he completely sidesteps more slantingly substantive errors such as reflexively regurgitating the Gun Control Industrial Complex’s long-debunked claim that 90% of Americans are in favor of universal background checks. Baby steps, though, right?

So what’s Corbett’s solution to these credibility-sapping screw-ups?

These are avoidable mistakes. We should always refer to The Times’s stylebook or another reference to check these details.

Problem solved. Next?

comments

  1. avatar PNG says:

    I thought the NYT’s style book on guns was just “Guns are bad, mmmkay?”

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      It comes with crayons.Staying inside the lines is optional if it feels OK.

    2. avatar Steven says:

      The New York Time’s style book doesn’t say anything accurate about guns. Every error cited probably WAS checked against the style book.

  2. avatar A-Rod says:

    Fear the gun that can shoot 300 rounds a minute (but only has a 30 round capacity mag) or some such craziness. I forget where this logic spewed in some paper a while back.

  3. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    This in a nutshell is why so many gun owners are conservatives. The whole premise of liberalism is that there exists a class of people within every society who are enlightened and benevolently work in public service to make us better people or make their careers in journalism in order to enlighten the unwashed masses. Then they go and open their mouths about firearms and we all realize these people, our elites, don’t have a clue what their talking about. Remember the Colorado legislator who had no idea that you could reload a magazine with new cartridges over and over? These are the people telling us which guns we need to give up for our own good. Then we realize that they know about as much about everything else as they do about firearms.

    1. avatar Ben says:

      Golfers writing the rules for football, as I call it.

    2. avatar Avid Reader says:

      Immaterial. Regardless of their inability to get beyond their feelings that guns are scary and evil, they know what’s best for the bitter clingers out here in flyover country.

    3. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      They are “progressives” or “statists”, not liberals. They do not follow liberal thought, they follow statism, the same as many “conservatives”.

      1. avatar Rich Grise says:

        Actually, they think they’re doing God’s work, but it’s the God of Power, not the God of Love. The Will of the God of Love is Free Will. The God of Power has no Will, so exploits humans’ wills.

        As it has always been and always will be, the answer is Love.

        Marijuana is chemotherapy for the cancer of Big Government. 🙂

        Marijuana ended the Vietnam War! =:-O

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          MJ and heroin.

      2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        I was referring to those who are “liberal” in terms of modern American politics. I’m well aware that that label is a misnomer in regards to classical liberalism.

        Then again, the only way in which they are “progressive” is in the sense that they want to progress back into statism.

      3. avatar William Burke says:

        Right you are. They have zero in common with Thomas Jefferson. No, he was NOT a conservative!

    4. avatar Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Or, as Martin Mull would say, like dancing about architecture.

    5. avatar Cliff H says:

      “Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think it does. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.” – Robert A. Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, 1973

    6. avatar Steven says:

      I thought the premise was that THEY are the class of people described, not that such a class exists in all societies.

  4. avatar user3369 says:

    Oh the irony. The only way to avoid flubs like this is to have a gun guy on staff. Said gun guy isn’t likely to help you avoid said flubs, but will most likely (or should) sabotage the stories to make NYT look even worse lol

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      “…sabotage the stories to make NYT look even worse”

      Sorry, that is not possible. On a good day their stuff looks like it was written by interns from Sudan.

  5. avatar 505markf says:

    Sooner or later it all comes down to this: there is no cure for ignorance except knowledge. Screw their style guides, come on down to the range with me and let’s see what guns are all about. Shoot first. Write second. I know, I know. I am perpetually optimistic.

    1. avatar Steven says:

      As Ronald Reagan once said, the problem with our liberal friends is not what they don’t know, but what they know that isn’t so.

      Note: As I did not look up the exact quote today, this may be slightly paraphrased .

  6. avatar Grumpy in Kali says:

    The media doesn’t know something? There’s a shock.

    Here’s a tip, if you don’t like the NYT; then don’t read it. Easy fix.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Much obliged.

  7. avatar Jonathan -- Houston says:

    I wouldn’t say this is the greatest sin against firearms acuity I’ve ever seen, or ever seen in the NYT, for that matter. After all, a great many firearms conventions are confusing, counterintuitive, and maybe even contradictory. Take shotgun bore size, for example. Set aside for the moment that few shotgun owners themselves, let along NYT writers, even know what the gauge of a shotgun actually means or how its derived; aside from some rudimentary awareness of it relating to the size of some trait of the shotgun.

    The reality is that gauges are an Old World means of measuring bore size and do so indirectly by reference to another item. No doubt Wiki explains it in a few sentences, but one should really read a history of firearms to get a better understanding of these things. Meanwhile, the “.410” in shotguns so designated, being a New World, and fairly new, advent, does refer directly to the nominal diameter of the bore the way gauge does not.

    So I suppose I could see the NYT mistakenly writing “.20” instead of “20” gauge when, after all, there is some application of a decimal point to at least one type of shotgun’s measurement.

  8. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    As much as it pains me, I have to defend the NY Times. They do have one (yes one) writer these days worth his salt with regards to firearms IMHO. C. J. Chivers writes almost exclusively on war issues in articles and his blog. He is author of a history of the AK titled “The Gun”.

    Just for the record back in the heyday of wood pulp publishing I would religiously buy the Times solely to read the truely great outdoor writers they had in their stable.

    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/c_j_chivers/index.html?8qa

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Sadly those days are history. Just like I used to buy the Herald Tribune to read news.

    2. avatar DamDoc says:

      you are truly an equivicator, sir

  9. avatar Dr. Michael S. Brown says:

    All they need to do is consult The Journalist’s Guide to Gun Violence Coverage. It specifically addresses this issue.

    http://www.gunlaws.com/pdf/Dr.%20Brown's%20Guide.pdf

    1. avatar Ing says:

      That is brilliant.

      TTAG needs to republish it so everyone here can see and enjoy it.

    2. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

      This angers me greatly. This is like the punk in in CO recently who felt he had to create an incident to prove his beliefs about the prevalence of gun violence and the need for gun control.

      Since the problem isn’t real, they have to report on stories to make the problem seem real so people will be motivated by fear to pass legislation that solves the problem.

  10. avatar Michael G Marriam says:

    I expect there isn’t an ignorant anti-gunner out there who if they might happen to read these comments wouldn’t say so what. We got the law on our side. We are going to pass more laws and eventually you won’t be able to own a gun and all this killing will stop and we’ll be safe. They don’t care how illogical or irrational they are. Taking our guns away will make them feel safer and that’s all they care.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      Their problem (and ours too) is that they know absolutely nothing about current firearms law. All they know is, more laws = better.

      This can be used to our advantage if we can drag their legal ignorance out into the spotlight and showcase it.

      See my comment below.

  11. avatar tdiinva says:

    Why is this any different from anything the Times prints? They have just “debunked” the Al Qaeda link to the Benghazi attack reiterating that it was all about the video that no one saw. They have done this despite the fact that a group at the Library of Congress that works for the Defense and Intelligence community IDed Ansar al-Shariah as an AQ affiliate that posed an immediate threat to US personnel and interest in Libya back in July of 2012. They used nothing more than open source reporting to do so. I thought the “paper of record” was the only one with the skill set to find those sorts of things out.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      It seems that the only “record” that can be attributed correctly there is 78 vinyl. The editors still are having a tough time putting theirs in their Walkman. The NYT has become a sad joke in the news business. And that’s all it is any more – a business.

      1. avatar Steven says:

        I only it WERE a business. They ceased acting like a business long ago. A business would be more concerned about making money than than attempting to advance an ideology.

  12. avatar WoodyTX says:

    Knowing that the NYT will write authoritatively about firearms, while being ignorant of the subject, what makes you think that they won’t do the same in other fields, such as international relations, economics, or immigration?

  13. avatar Jeff says:

    I left a comment on the NYT article, but it just disappeared as soon as I hit post.. Figures.

    Basically, the condensed point of my comment was this: the NYT and MSM’s bigger problem is that, not only do they consistently choke on the technical aspects of firearms, but they rarely get anything right in regards to federal/state firearms law. That is, if they even bother to mention the law at all.

    All too often I read some anti-gun article on a big media site that is simply devoid of any mention of current laws on the books regarding firearms, or if they do, they get it completely wrong.

    As far as I can tell, the news media has never heard of NFA law – just look and see how many times you’ve seen a semi-automatic firearm referred to as “automatic” or “fully automatic.” Even the President did it, for shit’s sake.

    Ask them to define current background check laws? Forget it. What constitutes a private sale or private transfer under current law? Forget that too.

    Ever seen a news article successfully explain California’s magazine capacity restrictions and the legal workarounds to them? Me neither.

    UBCs GOOD.
    Current background check laws, which we will not even bother to lay out or define for the purposes of the articles we write? BAD.. BAD. BAD. UBCs NOW!!!

    There is a complete void of understanding of firearms law in the majority of big media stories. This is either intentional, or they are simply unaware of how woefully inadequate their understanding is of the laws currently on the books.

    If it’s the latter, then why should we ever believe any MSM news article that portends that new firearms laws will be the answer to our problems, when they cannot even accurately articulate the purpose, wording, and effect of the current laws that we have?

  14. avatar Alan Rose says:

    I’ve been present at a few newsworthy events. Later when I reviewed the event in the media, I became less sure I was actually at the event they were reporting. Many of these were with a reporter on scene. Don’t believe anything the news media tells you.

    1. avatar Jack in the Crack says:

      I had the exact same revelation after a plane carrying about a dozen people crashed a block from my house about 25 years ago. My neighbors and I were on scene before any “first” responders or the media.

      I was shocked at what asses the Police Officers were about everything, threatening to tow peoples’ cars out of their own driveways if they didn’t move them fast enough, all the while trampling shrubs and breaking off saplings. One neighbor was an elderly gentleman (about 80 at the time) who walked with a cane and had trouble getting around in general, they they just kept screaming at him as if that would heal him and make him able to walk to his car faster.

      I was shocked when I watched the TV and Newspaper coverage which got so many of the facts of the event completely wrong. In some cases I witnessed the reporters do the interviews myself. The whole thing was really an eye opener.

  15. avatar Hannibal says:

    NYTimes, please define an assault rifle in two sentences or less.

    1. avatar Steven says:

      That’s easy. Any gun they don’t like, even if it isn’t a rifle.

  16. avatar BeninMA says:

    Ignorance of guns is no excuse. A good journalist knows when he or she doesn’t know something. So we’re either dealing with very bad reporters or willful ignorance in the service of political goals.

  17. avatar Ralph says:

    Where can I get one of those .20-gauge shotguns? I’m interested in wing-shooting mosquitoes.

    1. avatar scoutino says:

      If I understand the system of gauge right .20-gauge would be huge.Ball made of 5 pounds of lead would fit in it.

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        Yeah, .20-gauge would be like a small cannon. The bore would be 2.85 inches and I haven’t done the math, but I think five pounds is right on as the size of ball it could accommodate, given the data on existing gauges around that size.

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          No wonder I keep splattering those mosquitoes.

        2. avatar Rich Grise says:

          Isn’t this the one for the mosquitos?
          http://youtu.be/FnN79AGGgGE

  18. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    I still want one of the 40mm Glocks and 5.56 caliber AR15s I keep hearing about…

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      According to Jerry Tsai, those guns are far too powerful for civilians.

    2. avatar Patriot says:

      I want the one that “sprays bullets”

    3. avatar Cyrano says:

      Not one mention of the mysterious .9mm.

      1. avatar Steven says:

        That would be the one Ralph needs to shoot wings off mosquitoes.

  19. avatar DrVino says:

    Oh, jeebus!
    They can’t even navel gaze right………..

  20. avatar Unarmed & unnamed says:

    A porcine aviator? Would that be Porco Rosso in his fabulous red Savoia S.21?

  21. avatar DamDoc says:

    maybe they could hire metcalf as their gun expert! I hear he is looking for a job, and he is just their kind of guy…

  22. avatar Lucas D. says:

    BREAKING NYT EXCLUSIVE: According to shocking new findings, it appears as though things that look, walk and quack like ducks may, in fact, be ducks.

    Capt. Robert Obvious was unavailable for comment as of press time.

  23. avatar Karim says:

    A .20-gauge shotgun might be a BIT too large for hunting turkey, would’nt it? 🙂 Would that not imply that the barrel is large enough that a single ball that is 1/5 a pound could fit perfectly down the barrel?

  24. avatar Dan says:

    Wait! The New York Times is still in business? Whoa. I guess that’s the real story.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      They’re still in business because they’re taking in an extraordinary amount of money from Carlos Slim, the shady Mexican billionaire.

  25. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Let’s cut to the chase:

    Most “journalists” are liberal arts majors. As such, nearly anything with a number in it rapidly exceeds their IQ, training and motivation to understand it. Want some entertainment? Ask a journalist how many millions are in a trillion. Half of them won’t get it right. They don’t know the difference between “gauge” and “caliber.” These are just words without meaning to them. Ask any of them to define what “gauge” means with reference to a gun. They can’t.

    I cannot recount the number of times during my engineering career when I’d be talking to some “journalist” in a trade publication for the computer industry, on the record, and I’d have taken special pains to explain the answers to their questions in a way that I was sure (at the time) they understood.

    When the article would come out in print, it was clear that they hadn’t. More than a few times, I was called into a VP’s office and explanations of “how could you say this?!” were demanded. I had to reply “I didn’t say that.” It got to the point where I started to tape my conversations and I’d tell the journalist(s) that I was taping the conversation/interview. They usually got mad and hung up at that point. Apparently “on the record” is something for only them. If you keep a record, they get real pissy about it.

    Towards the end of my computer career, when I’d be asked if I could/would speak to a journalist. I’d then ask the journalist(s) “Do you have a degree?” If the first two letters in their reply were “BA” I’d stop them right there and say “Look, I don’t mean to be mean, but you’re probably lacking the background to understand what I would say to you, so I’m going to direct you over to our marketing people…” and I’d let them talk to yet another bunch of liberal arts grads. These ink-stained clowns would still get the facts wrong, but at least it wasn’t my butt getting hauled into a VP’s office to explain how this happened.

    Today, if I were called about a technical issue, I would be mean. I’d start with “You’re not smart enough to understand what I’m about to say. Go hire an engineer to explain this in small words for you, because I don’t have the time to educate you in all the science and math you skipped while you were partying through college…”

    1. avatar Cyrano says:

      After about 5 misquotes, total misinterpretations, and some outright personal attacks about things they didn’t understand….I stopped talking to the press. If a 4th grader can’t grasp it, they won’t either. I don’t get paid to talk to the press, I get paid to talk to people in my professional area. Its more liability to talk to the media, especially if they are minus a background in the topic.

      I once stated the price forecast would be hyperbolic with the current assumptions. It was printed as parabolic. (math guys… you can get a chuckle about the difference)

      Once I said we had to clear the Phyto standards in order to export that product to China. It was printed as we had to clear Fido’s standards to export it to China. I never knew I can to consult my dog to export anything.

      1. avatar Steven says:

        I think you owe 4th graders an apology for insulting their intelligence. At least you insulted the intelligence of the people in my 4th grade class. It is possible standards have dropped in the last 30 years.

  26. avatar IdahoPete says:

    “But it’s the type of error that might leave some skeptical readers wondering whether we know what we’re talking about on this subject.”

    No worries, matey – we know damn well that you don’t have an effin’ clue about firearms. Describing the NY Times as “pig ignorant” on the subject of firearms would be a baseless libel against pigs.

  27. avatar jkp says:

    Reminds me of a Monty Python skit…

  28. avatar DBM says:

    Wait a minute wasn’t that a tape made recently in the oval office?

    1. avatar Steven says:

      They could do BETTER than the current administration without breaking character.

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