Wick Communications

A different kind of magazine

In journalism on December 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

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You may have heard that NBC’s David Gregory got himself into some hot water over a prop he used during last week’s Meet the Press television show.

He was interviewing National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. And he was attempting to show the distinction between high-capacity assault rifle magazines and a much smaller one that only holds five bullets. So he held up one of each. The trouble is, the larger magazine is illegal to own in Washington, D.C., where the show is taped.

Well, fur flew. Many gun-rights supporters were up in arms (so to speak.) They think that Gregory is publicly lobbying for gun control and should live by the rules he supports.

NBC executives have been mum, but the D.C. cops say the network reached out to them and were expressly told that holding a high-capacity magazine would be illegal, on television or anywhere else. Bloggers have suggested the network may have gotten bad advice from friends in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who said the prop wouldn’t be a problem as long as it wasn’t loaded. D.C. cops have since said they are investigating the matter, apparently for possible prosecution. …

And then there is the suggestion that Gregory may have been holding a fake magazine. That may get him off the hook with authorities, but it raises significant questions about the quality of his journalistic instincts.

I mention all this because I want to caution against breaking the law. That may seem obvious, but Gregory’s experience shows how a well-meaning, good journalist can find himself on that slippery slope.

Newspaper reporters have attempted to buy illegal drugs for the purpose of a story. They have cooperated with shady types in the name of some higher good that may result from their stories. They have broken the law by crossing police lines and failing to obey legal orders. I’m not saying that good newspaper reporters will never do that sort of stuff under any circumstances. But I am saying that, at the moment, I can’t think of a good reason to break the law in the commission of your work.

One more thing: Never, ever undertake something that, like Gregory, you know to be legally questionable without discussing it with your editor and publisher. There can never be any surprises on this sort of thing and chances are, if you put your heads together, you can find an alternative that doesn’t skirt the law.

Clay

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