Thursday, January 31, 2008

Turn Your Media BS Filters Up To 11

*** POST UPDATED (and then some) SCROLL DOWN ***


WCVB (Channel 5 - Boston) is running their investigative report tonight on illegal firearms trafficking. The teaser video has footage from a gun show intermixed with that of an interview with (presumably) a local gang member discussing how easy it is to get guns on the street.

And, it looks like they've hired Michael Moore to do their editing.

At one point, the video is stitched together to make it appear as though there's a gangbanger with gloves on and his face wrapped in a bandanna actually attending a gun show, handling firearms, and offering a dealer $2,500 cash for a semiautomatic handgun.

I call bullshit.

That short clip alone is one of the worst cases of biased hatchet-job "journalism" I've seen in a long time.

UPDATE: Contact WCVB here. Let them know what you think of their journalistic practices and standards. Here's my message to them, which I fully expect to be brushed under the proverbial rug [UPDATE: response received, posted below].

Blatant Hatchet Journalism - you should be ashamed


I just watched the teaser video for your upcoming piece on the illegal trafficking of firearms. That clip appears to be a combination of video footage from a gun show intermixed with that of an interview with (presumably) a local gang member discussing how easy it is to get guns on the street.

From the looks of it, I have to assume you hired Michael Moore to do your editing.

At one point, the video is stitched together to make it appear as though there's a gangbanger with gloves on and his face wrapped in a bandanna actually attending a gun show, handling firearms, and offering a dealer $2,500 cash for a semiautomatic handgun.

There is no way that actually happened as you are depicting it. This is nothing more than the dishonest fabrication of the "facts" as you would like to viewers to see them.

Please tell me I'm wrong.

That short clip alone is one of the most offensive cases of biased hatchet-job "journalism" I've seen in a long time.

My guess is you took your hidden cameras to a gun show, encountered a whole bunch of decent people obeying the law, and realized it wouldn't make for good "gotcha" journalism. So, you went and spliced the video together to cast gun owners and dealers in as negative a light as possible.

Congratulations, you just made Dan Rather appear reputable by comparison.

As always, any reply will be posted here forthwith.

UPDATE II: After watching that short promo video again, I have decided to give it a final score of 9.8 out of 10 on the Steve Bailey No-Shit-0-Meter.

Shocking revelation #1: Individuals engaged in legal commerce in a free society are allowed to negotiate the selling price of goods and services.

Shocking revelation #2: Cash is still accepted by some as payment for the aforementioned goods and services.

Quick! Get the Pulitzer people on the phone! Someone alert Drudge! Channel 5's really blown the cover off of this one!

UPDATE III: Question the timing.

January 30, 2008 -- WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined with law enforcement officials, a Virginia Tech shooting victim, families of Virginia Tech victims and Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, to announce the introduction of new legislation to close the “Gun Show Loophole.”

(link via Ryan at Red's Trading Post)

UPDATE IV: Jennifer Berryman from WCVB responds:

Hello Bruce,

I just received your email and am eager to respond to your concerns about the promotion for tonight's Team 5 Investigates report.

Let me assure you that the assumptions you outline in your email below are incorrect..

It is, of course, a compilation of video that we gathered in the course of reporting this story over the last 6 months .. which did include a visit to a gun show. It also included numerous conversations, both on and off camera, with criminals, police, and prosecutors.

Tonight's investigation is longer than 5 minutes .. an extraordinary amount of time to dedicate to one story in a single newscast. By definition, a promotion for any story that runs 10, 15 or even 30 seconds can't fully give viewers the context of a 5-minute report.

Given the tone of your email to us, it's clear that you have your own thoughts on the issue of guns and violence.

I hope you will be fair and open-minded enough to watch tonight's investigation...and then decide for yourself.

Thank you for watching, and taking the time to write to Channel 5.


My response:


Thank you for your prompt reply.

I fully understand and appreciate that it's difficult to encapsulate the entirety of a five-minute news segment in a short promotional clip such as the one posted on the WCVB website. However, that short video, as edited, leaves those viewers unfamiliar with gun shows with a very misleading impression of how they're run.

It is clear that the video was edited for maximum "shock value", by making it appear as if gang members are going into gun shows, masked in gang colors and wearing gloves, and buying all the guns they want. Please don't insult my intelligence by telling me otherwise.

Further, more people will watch that short clip than will tune in for the full report. The damage has been done. The misinformation has been disseminated. Many viewers will simply take that short video at face value without questioning its accuracy. I would hope that WCVB would have the integrity not to make public such a misleading and biased piece of video.

And, yes, I will be watching tonight, hoping for something a little less sensationalized than what I've seen so far.


Bruce [...]

More to follow, once the segment airs, and I've had a chance to view and dissect it.

UPDATE V: Just received, and responded to, this response from Russ [name redacted], one of the WCVB staffers who contributed to this upcoming segment. There's hope that this might be more than the typical anti-gun hit piece we've grown to expect from our mass media news types (e.g. CNN and former Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne and the New York Daily News - thanks, Kevin). We shall see.

I'm posting his response here with his permission to include his name as well. In his e-mail, he identifies himself as a Massachusetts gun owner, and I wanted to offer him some level of anonymity. He did ask that I not post his phone number, so that he could get some work done tomorrow. Heh.

Dear Mr [...]:

Allow me a moment to address your specific concern regarding our television promotion.

Nothing in the promotion mentions gun shows... and while part of our investigation involves illegal sales at gun shows, it is only part of the problem we uncovered which allows robust gun trade in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. The complete text of the promotion is found below. We specifically mention a "thriving underground gun market" and "rogue dealers" not limiting the verbiage or the video to one source... and our video depicts where we discovered the problems, both with gang members, drug dealers and federally licensed and private sellers at gun shows.

Understand, too, as a law-abiding gun owner myself that I am particularly sensitive to firearm-related coverage by the media. I grew up around firearm use as a pleasant family-oriented activity. To me, a rifle is a companion as comfortable as a fishing rod or any other piece of sporting equipment. I applied my personal experience in the edit suite and contributed my thoughts to our special projects team so they could understand there is more than one side to this story. I was appalled by the blatant disregard for law that we so easily captured on tape. The actions of criminals can have a negative impact on law-abiding gun owners. I personally believe the sooner rogue dealers are held to account, there will be less ammunition for people who neither understand nor care to understand that firearms can be used and enjoyed responsibly.

Thanks for taking the time to write us. Feel free to contact me with any other concerns. And thanks for your interest in WCVB NewsCenter 5 and


- Russ


Thank you for taking the time to respond to my concerns.

As an ardent, and vocal, supporter of our Second Amendment rights, I am looking forward to watching this segment tonight. As a former gun-owning resident of Boston, I have long criticized people like Boston Mayor Tom Menino for blaming New Hampshire's gun laws for the violence in our larger cities that is universally centered around gang activity and the trafficking of illicit substances. Especially, when all the federal crime gun trace data (for what it's worth) shows Massachusetts as the #1 source for guns used in criminal activity in the state.

I do hope your story sheds some light on how the criminal population is so easily arming itself in the land of the so-called "most effective gun laws in the nation", while many people are barred from owning guns due to the the onerous licensing requirements in places like Boston, Brookline, and Quincy.

Further, I appreciate your stance on the need to hold accountable those who would flagrantly violate the law. Sadly, too many people in power perceive all gun owners as potential criminals and, as in the case in Massachusetts, the real criminals are often shuffled through the revolving doors of justice and set loose on the streets as fast as they're being arrested.

Forgive my cynicism, but I've seen too many hatchet jobs, produced by supposedly "reputable" news sources, designed to manipulate public opinion against those of us who hold dear our Constitutionally-protected freedoms. A station like WCVB has tremendous power in shaping public opinion, especially for folks who get their news in soundbite format without doing any independent research of their own.

I still take offense at the way that short segment was put together, as I feel it leaves the wrong impression with the average viewer. But, I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and will absolutely be watching tonight's segment with a fair and open mind.


Bruce [...]

I will put up a new post with my commentary following tonight's broadcast.