New York tabloid cover sparks controversy following San Bernardino shooting

WRITTEN BY: LILA GORDON

In response to the apparent spike in mass shootings, a gun control controversy has erupted across the country. And in response to this controversy, on Dec. 3, New York Daily News created a cover that shocked its audience.

The cover of the New York Daily News shocked readers with its lack of compassion and journalistic ethics. (New York Daily News)
The cover of the New York Daily News shocked readers with its lack of compassion and journalistic ethics. (New York Daily News)

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, 35 people’s lives were directly affected by a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. The perpetrators, Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, used legally obtained rifles and handguns to attack the center.

The same conversation about gun control that has always occurred between conservatives and liberals is now tinged with fear, as there have now been 381 mass shootings in the year of 2015 alone.

Defying typical journalism standards, New York Daily News cover took a blatant stance in the argument. This cover featured similar tweets from senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan about “sending prayers to the people of San Bernardino.” In the center, bold white print contrasted on a black background, are the words “God Isn’t Fixing This.” Underneath it calls these men “cowards who could truly end the gun scourge.”

One of the tenants of journalism is remaining impartial in news coverage. The clearly biased headline led to heated online comments.

“YOU liberals and Democrats cannot even offer any sympathy or prayers for these people,” John Smith said. “YOU all are very cold hearted and callous. Do us all a favor, go live in other country.”

It also inspired defense of New York Daily News’ view: that gun control is a necessary solution in ending these attacks.

“You Americans let this occur on a daily basis with your childish ‘right to bear arms’ crap,” K Bryne said. “John Wayne died many years ago so get off your horse and act like real men!”

Temple News editor Steve Bohnel sees the cover as “sensationalized” and potentially overlooking the tragedy.

“I do honestly think covers like this can bypass that (the tragedy) by pointing fingers at certain people, instead of realizing that doing that won’t bring 14 people back,” Bohnel said. “Sure, the discussion has to be had, but let the families grieve for a little bit.”

An issue that arises when journalists blatantly take sides in a conversation such as this one is whether the publication can be trusted.

New York Daily News is a tabloid-style newspaper. In general, the writing in tabloid-style papers is less formal. However, it might appear to some that this cover takes informal to partisanship.

“I just have a problem with the publication singling our four politicians, when everybody uses thoughts or prayers,” Bohnel said. “As far as I’m concerned, all politicians have to work through this. Pointing the finger only slows down the process.”

Journalist George Miller, who teaches Journalism and Society at Temple University, sees New York Daily News’ partisanship in a different light.

“All news organizations have a personality,” said Miller. “That’s what makes them special. They speak to their audience.”

However, Miller does think the mention of God could alienate opponents, rather than incite conversation about this topic.

“I’m less concerned about the use of the word “coward” and more concerned that the NYDN mentioned God,” Miller said. “That only gives the Christian conservatives fuel for their fire.”

One issue the journalists agree on is that in this century, Twitter is now considered a news source.

New York Daily News did not act in the typical journalistic way. Whether bold statements like these serve to make a difference in gun policy is yet to be seen.

 

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