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Journal News Editors Fess Up to Gun Map Inaccuracies
Posted January 30th, 2013

ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES STAFF EDITORIAL

The Journal News finally acknowledged this week how badly outdated the information posted on their Rockland County gun map was.

Back in early January, Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato said the “historic” (as in old) permits listed on the map were as much as 25 percent outdated. This news was reported by the Rockland County Times and also became the subject of discussion between Rockland County Times Editor Dylan Skriloff and Greta Van Susteran on the Fox News program “On the Record.”

In an edition this week of the Journal News, the White Plains-based newspaper finally reported on the outdated Rockland database, making note that many people saw a dot on their house even though they did not own a gun. In reporting the matter, the newspaper did not express any regret or remorse over the fact that the map had many hundreds, or thousands of outdated addresses. (According to Piperato’s estimate the number would be over 2,500).

The Journal News’ excuse for the outdated information is that since the gun permits were “historic,” their continued validity could not be easily verified. When people pass away or move, it often goes unreported to the county clerk, even though the clerk is supposed to be notified.

These outdated permits remained on the public records and so the Journal News had to include them on the map. In Westchester by contrast, permits are regularly updated, so the map was mostly accurate.

Originally the Journal News only had one map for Rockland with both recently active permits and historic permits listed on it. Later they divided the information into two maps, one for permits with activity within the last five years and another for historic permits dating back decades. For the historic permits, the newspaper noted in small text–which most readers would not notice–that the information might be outdated.

The question is begged: in an analogous situation, would writing an article and stating within it “this article may be highly inaccurate,” make for good journalism?

It seems the editors over in White Plains are in denial that publishing outdated information, simply because it’s what they got from the “public record,” is not acceptable to any sane journalist or reader.

According to the Journal News, legally permitted guns are so dangerous that everyone has a right to know where exactly they are. It would seem they caused needless alarm and cast false innuendo upon certain households by publishing the historic permits.

There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of persons who went through the puzzling experience of being listed as having a gun permit at their address, even though they did not have one. Whether there are dangers to being listed as owning a gun when you don’t, is up for debate, but anyone would feel strange about their house being noted on a map for information that doesn’t even apply to them.

Did the editors in Westchester even care if the Rockland County map was accurate? Would they have published the Westchester map if it were so outdated? We doubt it.

It’s sad and amusing that the Rockland County Times learned anyone could have asked for a list of deceased Rocklanders, as well as changed addresses, from the Rockland County Board of Elections, and cross-referenced it with the gun permit map to get rid of the outdated information. This may have been time-consuming, but it would have been the right thing to do.