An editorial camouflaged as news
(Special report published in the Warren Times Observer, March 10, 2009.)
Tragic news broke on February 21 alleging that an 11-year old western Pennsylvania boy shot and killed his father’s girlfriend, who was 8 months pregnant. The boy has been charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child.
The Associated Press has presented
a hit-piece on hunting.
I write columns about hunting, but what has that to do with hunting? Nothing. Nothing at all. Or at least it didn’t until the writer who originally broke the story followed it two weeks later with another story that implicated hunting in nearly every paragraph. It was agenda journalism at its worst.
One doesn’t have to read the March 7 Associated Press follow-up to the original story to see the agenda . It’s bannered right in the headline: “PA boy, 11, charged with murder was avid hunter.”
What evidence does the story show that the boy was a hunter? None. It provides not a speck of evidence that the boy had ever gone hunting.
The fact is that he’s actually too young to buy a hunting license. That doesn’t necessarily mean he never went hunting, because Pennsylvania allows “mentored” hunting where young people under 12 may go hunting under specific, very closely supervised conditions. But no evidence was offered that he ever did that either.
Certainly if the boy had ever even tagged along with an adult, it would have been mentioned. The fact is that the kid wasn’t an “avid hunter.” He wasn’t a hunter at all.
But apparently it wasn’t enough just to mischaracterize the boy in the headline. The first sentence adds to the falsehood: “Hunting is a way of life in the rural area where [the 11-year-old boy] regularly practiced target shooting with his 20-gauge, youth model shotgun.”
Regularly? No word is mentioned about how, when, where or whether the boy had ever gone target shooting.
In the second sentence, the writer sought to implicate everyone but the boy: “Here in west-central Pennsylvania, hunting clubs are plentiful, the first day of deer hunting season means a day off from school and turkey shoots are held year round.” Since the boy’s criminal act had exactly nothing to do with hunting, what could that mean? Why, it sounds like that boy was raised in a barbaric culture!
If that’s not enough, the third sentence says this: “A month ago, [he] won a turkey at a local shoot against older, more experienced hunters.” Is that supposed to mean he was a skilled marksman? Yes, it’s supposed to mean that. But the reality is that the same thing would have happened if they had been playing miniature golf! Older people let kids win.
You might wonder, “Wow! Sorensen is only on the third sentence. Is he going to cover every sentence?” Well, no. But I could.
I’ll only say that the writer misused a quote from an environmental philosophy professor at Cornell University to support his agenda. He offered a quote from a major anti-gun organization which contained an unproven assumption about the tragedy. He implicated firearms manufacturers by citing the fact that they make some guns with smaller stocks to accommodate smaller people. And he cites another anti-gun crusader who makes a blatantly false statement. All to support his own anti-gun journalistic fantasy.
To his credit, the author quotes Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “This had nothing to do with hunting.” Good – but given the context, most readers will likely say, “Yeah, right.”
And in case anyone might agree with Feaser, the matter isn’t left there. The final paragraph approvingly mentions an obviously wise father who suggests that hunting involves too much adrenaline for children under 15.
Not a single aspect of the boy's human relationships, neither with his father nor the victim nor anyone else, is mentioned even once. Yet hunting is indicted throughout.
It’s not just hunters who use camouflage. This “story” was an editorial camouflaged as news – a perfect example of the so-called “drive-by” media. The Associated Press has presented opinion as news, and its target this time is hunting.
I don’t minimize the tragic death of a 26-year old woman and her unborn baby. A “professional” journalist has already done that. And while doing it he has put one more nail into the coffin of journalistic integrity – a tragedy that affects every American.