Editor Involved in Interactive Gun Owner Maps, 25 Others Laid Off at Journal News

August 11th, 2013 2:06 PM

Just before Christmas last year, the Journal News in New York's Westchester County north of New York City published maps containing "the addresses (and names) of all pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties," and announced their intention to add Putnam County. A firestorm of outrage ensued, but the stubborn paper's operators held out for almost four weeks before finally pulling the maps — but "somehow" allowed the raw data to get out (more on that later). In the interim, there were reports that criminals had begun using the maps to target homes to rob, and that prison inmates were threatening prison guards identified as gun owners.

On Wednesday, Journal News competitor the Rockland County Times reported that an editor involved in the story and over two dozen others had been laid off as part of a nationwide cost-cutting move by Journal News parent Gannett (bolds are mine; HT to BearingArms.com via Instapundit, Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin's place, and Ace):

Janet Hasson Fires Caryn McBride

The Rockland County Times has learned that Rockland County Chief Editor Caryn McBride is among the casualties of the recent purge of 17 journalists and 26 total staffers at the Gannett-owned Journal News newspaper.

McBride gained fame earlier this year for her involvement in the Journal News gun map fiasco. Police reports indicated McBride had called the Clarkstown Police Department to notify them of torrents of angry phone calls and letters the newspaper received following the publication of the map.

The Rockland editor said she felt threatened by the complaints, but local police did not agree a credible threat against the safety of employees of the newspaper existed. Unsatisfied, McBride and other executives decided to hire armed guards to protect their property, causing an uproar due to the perceived hypocrisy of the avowed anti-gun editors hiring gun-toting men.

The decision to lay off McBride was made by Journal News Publisher and CEO Janet Hasson.

... There is no indication the gun map played a role in the layoffs.

Fair enough. One can't show a direct connection between the map fiasco and the layoffs in an industry which has been contracting for nearly a decade from largely self-inflicted wounds.

But it's highly unlikely that the map could have helped long-term print circulation, which has dropped by about 20% in four years (2009: 84,059 Morning, 108,632 Sunday; March 2013: 66,068 Monday-Friday, 76,147 Saturday, 86,152 Sunday), or the paper's relationship with its online and print advertisers and readers. Neither could the fact that the raw information used to create the map "somehow" got leaked by an anonymous Dropbox user, with the following accompanying message:

This goes out to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the National Rifle Association, Christopher Fountain (you shameless scumbag), and everyone else who has threatened the Journal News and Gawker reporters and employees.

... The internet doesn't forget.

Free information. Ban ammunition.

Almost seven months later, the files at the message are still accessible for anyone to abuse.

So despite the casualties, it looks like the Journal News, whether it deliberately or accidentally allowed the raw data to get out, in the end accomplished its privacy-invading, safety-compromising mission.

What a complete disgrace.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.