Inside the Newsroom: Case for gun-permit listings trumps emotional opposition : Columnists : Memphis Commercial Appeal
Misunderstandings with people who carry guns can turn ugly.
This past week it has been ugly at the newspaper, after passionate gun owners latched onto three very wrong ideas about why The Commercial Appeal's Web site now lists all those in Tennessee who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.Our crime? Putting up a Web-only database that allows people to search by name or ZIP code for those who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Tennessee. The list came from the Tennessee Department of Safety and is available to anyone who wants it, simply by contacting the agency's office. The state of Tennessee, to this point, has decided that the right to carry a concealed weapon comes with the responsibility of agreeing to have a public record of who is packing.This newspaper published a database listing all the concealed weapons holders in Tennessee.That's why commercialappeal.com posted the list. It's a tiny bit of local information, and we're in that business of gathering and distributing local information.
Granted, news organizations do have some things to learn about this changing media world where print is about stories and online is about data and search. We need to learn how to massage databases more efficiently to tease out particular information, such as how many convicted felons in Shelby County have a concealed weapons permit. (Nine, as it turned out when we did this story back in August 2008.)
That is private information in my opinion. How do you feel?