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‘Journalists Bend Over Backward’: Harvard Publishes Guide Advising Reporters Against Having Balanced Gun Coverage

Journalists are too balanced when covering gun research and shouldn’t always ask for input from pro-gun groups like the NRA, a  Johns Hopkins professor said, according to an article Monday on tips for reporting on gun issues.

“6 tips for reporting on gun policy and gun violence,” was published Monday by the Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and is based on an interview with Jon Vernick, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

The guideline is aimed to give pointers to journalists covering the gun beat and advised that “If you’re reporting the facts of an evidence-based study, don’t try to ‘balance’ the coverage with an opposing opinion.”

In his sixth tip, labeled “Avoid False Equivalence,” Vernick stated:

“I think journalists actually do a good job already of balancing — maybe too good a job, depending on your perspective.”

“And so when I will do a research study and the studies get coverage, I sometimes wonder if it’s necessary to have a non-researcher from the NRA or another group respond,” Vernick said.

“At least in my experience, journalists bend over backward to give organizations like the NRA or other gun-owning or opposition groups a chance to comment, sometimes on things that they don’t know very much about,” he said.

“I think balance is important in all reporting. And I certainly believe that the NRA and other pro-gun groups should have the ability to make their positions on policy matters known,” Vernick told The Daily Caller News Foundation in regards to his advice on balanced coverage.

Vernick further clarified his remarks: “The point I was trying to make – perhaps not entirely clearly – is that when a research study is being reported on, the ‘balance’ should come from an individual or group with expertise in judging the quality of that research – not simply a group that is unhappy with the finding.”

NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen responded to Vernick’s comments, telling TheDCNF that “the NRA employs PhDs and Second Amendment legal experts from some of the nation’s top universities.”

“For Mr. Vernick, who works for an institution that is literally bought and paid for by gun control billionaire Michael Bloomberg and who himself lacks a PhD, to question the NRA’s ability to analyze research claims is absurd. It’s not surprising he is advising journalists to  produce one-sided reporting on the issue of gun control.”

When asked if journalists should contact qualified research staff at pro-gun groups like the NRA, Vernick agreed. “If the NRA has staff trained in research methods and analysis, then (in my view) such a person would indeed be qualified to comment on the quality of a research study.”

Harvard’s Shorenstein Center did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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