I grew up wanting to be a journalist. I saw Woodward and Bernstein break the Watergate Scandal. I watched Walter Cronkite until he signed off for the last time on my birthday in 1981. I believed in the idea of the Fourth Estate, that the free press was the last line of defense in a government that was supposed to be set up on a system of checks and balances.
Then I walked into a newsroom…and another…and another.
In the mid-1990s a friend of mine lamented when she moved from a newspaper in South Dakota to another in Duluth, Minnesota that she had gone from being the most liberal person in the newsroom to being the most conservative without ever changing her mind on a single topic.
I believed that I could uncover injustice and hold people accountable and objectively report the truth. I don’t remember the topic, but I remember the news meeting when the editor said, “I hate this guy. Go out and find me someone who hates this guy so we can get a good quote.”
That is when I realized I was in the wrong business and the Fourth Estate was a sham. That was many years ago. I have made a good living writing about guns and freedom since then. But I am still at my heart a journalist. What set me off today is this story.
This piece by NBC News is not listed as a commentary or editorial. It is run as straight news; a follow-up to the story about the psychiatrist who carried his gun to work and ended up stopping an active shooter at his clinic. The good doctor carried his gun to work despite a strict hospital policy against it. Instead of dozens dead, just one person was killed. The doctor stopped the carnage.
The headline to this story reads: “Psychiatrists With Guns Likely More ‘Harmful Than Helpful’: Experts.” And then in the story we get a quote from DJ Jaffe, executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Org where Mr. Jaffe (not even a doctor) says, “My guess is that arming psychiatrists is more likely to be harmful than helpful.”
First of all the writer of this story, Linda Carroll, published the statement of a man who is guessing. Then she violated the first rule of journalism by failing to ask a follow-up question. My follow-up would have been: “Why would you say something like that? It appears this armed doctor was very helpful.”
She then goes on to write, “A study published in 2012 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that just 4 percent of hospital shootings involved someone who was ‘mentally unstable.’”
We are supposed to accept this as Gospel. I, for one, would ask the question, “How could that study be accurate? Is a person who walks into a hospital and starts shooting people, not, by virtue of that action alone, mentally unstable?” I mean, there are some liberals who say gun owners are mentally unstable because we feel we need to carry guns to defend ourselves. Yet only 4 percent of those who go into hospitals and start shooting are mentally unstable? A good journalist would question that statistic and ask follow-up questions.
And then she closed the story quoting Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. Swanson said, “One thing we do know is that the presence of firearms doesn’t necessarily provide protection—and sometimes it does just the opposite.”
Where is the follow up question? “But doctor, in this case a good man with a gun stopped a bad man from killing many people. Do you feel he did the right thing?”
This event is proof that guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives. But I am convinced that what happened to create this story was that some editor told Ms. Carroll, “Find me a psychiatric group that is against guns and get a quote.”
I am certain the editor did not direct Ms. Carroll to “get both sides of the story.”
That is the problem with what passes for news today. And that is why I gave up on working in the mainstream media.