Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Star-Advertiser shooting tourism in the foot with shock gun ownership mis-headline

by Larry Geller

Scary headlineCNN- TucsonTourists walking along Waikiki sidewalks today, with the tragic Tucson shooting still on their hotel TV screens, will see newspaper box headlines screaming in all-caps OAHU LOADS UP ON GUNS.

The story itself contradicts the screaming headline. Will it sell newspapers? Probably. Is it irresponsible journalism? I think so.

What tourists won’t see is inside the paper where the story reports

Hawaii also ranked last in 2007 in gun ownership,

They won’t see the small, lighter, comparatively invisible sub-head hidden inside the newspaper box

Gun deaths are among the lowest in the U.S., but ownership is growing

If they get the paper delivered to their hotel door or buy one with breakfast, they’ll see a large, scary photo of a variety of guns with the caption:

Young Guns salesman Greg Abe reaches into the handgun case at the Mapunapuna store. Dale Hayama, president of Young Guns, said, "People are recognizing the fact that the responsibility to protect myself and my family lies with me."

Ad for gun sales

That statement is not supported in the story. It is merely the opinion of a gun salesman given the opportunity of front-page exposure.

The huge pic amounts to a front-page ad encouraging readers to go out and buy weapons. It is out of place in a state that demonstrates exactly the opposite—we can live together  in safety, compared with the gun-owning, gun-toting states where people follow gun salesmen’s advice and risk dying as a consequence.

The choice to feature a gun dealerhip in this story is perhaps ideological. Whether or not it is the personal belief of the editor or publisher it does not excuse their taking advantage of a national tragedy to hustle newspaper sales. On the continuation page is another large picture of the gun salesman holding a large shotgun. That’s two pictures pushing gun sales, nothing from those who either oppose guns or don’t think Hawaii has the problem the headline claims it has.

The story itself illustrates why the picture and caption are inappropriate:

And yet, Hawaii has relative low levels of gun ownership and firearms-related fatalities. The Washington-based Violence Policy Center said last year that in 2007, Hawaii had a gun death rate of 2.82 per 100,000 residents, the lowest in the country.

An editor should also have caught that “relative low levels of gun ownership and firearms-related fatalities” is misleading. The rest of the paragraph corrects its first sentence. It’s more than “relative [sic] low levels”, it’s the lowest in the country, dear editors. And it’s no excuse that it doesn’t look like an editor read that sentence at all, given the grammar.

Japan TimesViolence in the USA often makes the news overseas and particularly in peaceful Japan. The Tucson tragedy is still on many overseas front pages. Here’s a snip from today’s Japan Times:

If they just flew into Hawaii, yesterday’s top headlines may be still in their mind as they pick up the Star-Advertiser gun issue outside their hotel door:

Yesterday Japan Times

I wonder if the tourism industry is concerned enough to have a few words with the management of the only daily newspaper left in Oahu about the potential negative effect on our state’s reputation of inflammatory headlines. The rest of us might also be concerned that our neighbors, scared by the Star-Advertiser’s alarming headline, may actually go out and buy themselves some guns.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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