USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Nowadays, during what historians will likely call Obama’s third term, Joe, Kamala, and the rest of the White House commissars have targeted every link of the firearm chain: from the manufacturers who produce the weapons to the credit card processors who facilitate the transactions, to the carriers who ship the guns to the dealers – and man, have they ever targeted our gun dealers.
Few outside the gun-rights community are aware of these assaults on our constitutionally protected freedoms because the legacy media has not covered any of it, which is certainly nothing new.
Today’s traditional media pays scant attention to the Second Amendment or gun rights, and when they do, their stories are so inaccurate and biased that they’re unreadable. Thousands of reporters and editors make up the legacy media, backed by multi-billion-dollar corporations, hedge-fund owners, and high-dollar advertisers.
We have less than 100 good folks reporting about issues that affect us. Most have day jobs and report part-time.
That, friends, needs to change!
We need more pro-gun reporters – watchdogs who can hold their public officials accountable at the local, state, and federal levels – brave souls who can help get the word out when they spot an infringement.
It’s not difficult to do since smartphone technology and social media can make anyone a journalist.
It doesn’t matter what platform you use to publish a story – social media, a website, a podcast or a YouTube channel – because a hard-hitting pro-gun story generates buzz, and buzz generates action. Public officials don’t like their switchboards overwhelmed with irate callers or their inboxes overflowing with angry emails.
If you want to help – if you want to write pro-gun stories, here are some tips you may find helpful.
Report Don’t Rewrite
There is nothing stopping anyone from reporting their own pro-gun stories – period.
Some folks will rewrite a story from the legacy media and sprinkle in a dash of pro-gun perspective. While this can work, there’s an inherent problem with this practice. It allows the legacy media to set our editorial agenda. In other words, it allows anti-gun media to determine what we read online or watch on a podcast or YouTube channel. That friends, we must not allow.
Reporting is actually pretty easy. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s all about listening to people. The best reporters I know are also the best listeners. They also get out of their chairs.
You have the same access to press conferences and other public events as any so-called “credentialed” reporter since reporters have no special access or special accreditation, for that matter. Legally, they’re members of the public, too. If a public official tries to bar you from attending a press conference, which are by design open to the public, they’ve screwed up, and that’s newsworthy.
Similarly, no local government can require media credentials or press passes and then bar you from an event for not having them. That’s a First Amendment violation, and it is also newsworthy.
Good reporting begins with thorough planning and preparation. Good reporters will become subject-matter experts long before they set their first word into type by researching their topic online, talking to experts in the field, and researching in the library.
Ask Good Questions
I write out my questions in advance of a lengthy interview. It helps keep me organized, and I don’t waste time trying to come up with my next question.
I use the DQT – the Direct Questioning Technique. Direct questions are designed to elicit a narrative response rather than a yes/no answer. After all, your goal is to get the subject talking so you can quote them.
Throughout the interview, I will use control questions – questions I know the answer to – and repeat questions – questions I’ve asked before but rephrased – to ensure the subject is truthful.
I try to avoid compound questions – What is your name and what is your favorite color? – and overly complex questions, as they tend to confuse the subject.
Don’t forget to question the target of your story, or at least make an attempt. I have yet to have a conversation with any ATF spokesperson, but fairness dictates I still make the attempt every time.
I try to use official documents as a basis for my stories after I’ve verified their authenticity. Documents don’t lie, and they don’t need attribution. In other words, you don’t need to tell anyone how you obtained the documents.
Documents can’t be taken out of context and are very difficult to refute.
Become familiar with your local open records and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws. Each state has different laws. Some, especially Florida, have penalties if the public official refuses to produce the documents promptly.
Keep in mind that the type of official records that can be obtained through a FOIA request are not always paper documents. I’ve had tremendous fun requesting a public official’s text messages, their daily calendar, and the GPS records from their official vehicles.
Most states allow citizens to request an official’s social media posts too, and they penalize the official if they delete their posts. If you suspect an official is anti-gun, get their social media history. Anti-gunners always put themselves on their social media. They can’t help it.
Libel & Offers of Anonymity
I strongly recommend researching libel law until you thoroughly understand what you can and cannot publish. The truth has always been the best defense against libel claims, but nowadays, anyone can be sued for even the most trivial of reasons. While the target of your story may not like what’s published, if it’s true, legally, there’s little they can do.
Also, be careful offering anonymity. It can bite you if you’re sued and have to defend yourself in court. The sole purpose of some libel lawsuits is to determine who leaked the information. If a judge orders you to divulge the name of a source whom you granted anonymity, and you refuse, you can be held in jail on contempt charges until you give up the name.
Edit Your Work
There’s an old journalism saying: Everyone needs an editor. It’s certainly true, especially for me. It’s always difficult to edit your own work. Find someone who can read your stories and make suggestions. You can always send them to me if you can’t find anyone. I’m happy to help.
Publish on Multiple Platforms
If you launch a website and post a story, few outside your circle of friends will ever see it. The best way to get more views is by publishing on multiple platforms. I recommend posting a story on a website and then adding links on multiple social media channels. I’d also tag pro-gun websites on your social media and email them links to your story.
The more you share, the more people will read your story. I recommend creating a list of websites and social media accounts that you use every time you publish a story.
Once a story is published, you should monitor the response – especially from the target of your story. They may hold a press conference or issue a statement. There may be resignations or firings, or they may refute your story and point out alleged inaccuracies.
If you made a mistake, own it. We’re all human. Mistakes happen. When you admit a mistake, it builds credibility with your readers. Generally, I’ll fix the error in the story and then add a note at the top indicating that there was an error in the story that was fixed.
I believe that when you publish a major story, you’re only half done.
A hard-hitting story gets people’s attention. Then, it’s time for the follow-up stories. Don’t stop writing until the issue you revealed is resolved.
Public officials are accustomed to legacy media’s “one and done” tactic. Once they see your follow-up stories – once they realize you’re not going to stop – they’re more likely to take action. So don’t think of writing a story. Think of writing a series of stories.
This is the best way to hold public officials accountable.
I was an investigative reporter at four newspapers, and I still have trouble defining the term. Generally, an investigative reporter has the luxury of time. That is the major difference. Some stories can take weeks. Some can take months or even years.
The payoff is worth it. Laws can be changed. Civil rights can be restored. Bad officials can be outed and held accountable.
The one commonality of investigative stories is that they all start at the local level when someone discovers a problem and starts digging.
If this is a path you want to venture down, thank you. Our community certainly needs more eyes and ears out there.
The legacy media faces massive cuts and layoffs, so the politicians believe no one is watching. They need scrutiny now more than ever, especially the anti-gun pols. If I can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. My cell is (941) 284-8553 or you can send me an email me at [email protected]
This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.
About Lee Williams
Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.