Thursday, January 31, 2013

AND NPR DIDN'T EVEN LABEL THIS "SPONSORED CONTENT"

I know you're probably sick of the gun posts, but I thought you might like to know about this warm-fuzzy NPR story, which showed up in my Twitter feed today:
Are Shooting Ranges The New Bowling Alleys?

The traditional American shooting range is extending its range.

In Summerville, S.C., for example, the ATP Gunshop & Range stages community-minded blood drives and Toys for Tots collections. Twice a week there are ladies' nights, where women can learn to fire pistols and receive free T-shirts.

The Freestate Gun Range in Middle River, Md., has staged competitive, poker-style target games and zombie shoots. The Family Shooting Center in Aurora, Colo. ...
Yes, you read that location correctly.
... The Family Shooting Center in Aurora, Colo., showcases gourmet elk and pheasant bratwursts. The Governors Gun Club under construction in Powder Springs, Ga., will feature a members' lounge and bar.

"Warm up this winter at an indoor shooting range," trumpets the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association of the firearms industry. "You can teach family and friends to shoot, or you can sign them up for a class. What better way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon than enjoying quality time together doing an activity you enjoy?"

Games! Specials! Online coupons! Sign up for teams! Fun for the whole family! Are shooting ranges the new bowling alleys in America? ...
Golly gee, I'm not sure! Tell me more!

We learn about a shooting league in Texas called A Girl and a Gun; we learn that a gunshop in Las Vegas has added a wedding chapel; were told, "Some women's shooting groups hire certified babysitters," and "Others have volunteers who take turns watching the kids, 'kind of like day care at church.'" It's mom and apple pie! It's girl power! How can you possibly criticize this, totebagger?

(A few grumbles of discontent from gun-control advocates do eventuallyshow up, but not until paragraph 26 of the 30-paragraph story.)

This isn't news -- this is sponsored content from the gun industry, except it's not labeled as such, and there's no evidence that any money actually changed hands.

The National Shooting Sports Federation, which gets a couple of mentions in the story (home base: Newtown, Connecticut), is the clear beneficiary -- and, I assume, the source of the story. NSSF has made a concerted effort in recent years to sell guns, particularly assault rifles, to new markets, particularly women and children, as a far more skeptical story at the Huffington Post notes:
"Why are these guns so popular?" asks a lecturer in a video of one of the NSSF media seminars. "One word: They're fun!"

"These are fun fun guns to shoot," says an unidentified journalist in the same video. "As a mother of three I'd have no problem letting my kids, with the correct supervision and safety gear, you know, try one of these guns."
A gun control advocate says the NSSF is trying "to put a happy face on these military weapons" -- and I suspect NSSF is also trying to put a happy, girly face on shooting in general. Thanks, NPR, for the big assist!

10 comments:

Victor said...

Jaysooz H. Keerist, after hearing National Public Roman Emperor Augustus Scroll Readings, NPR-EASR, our NPR stations have gone downhill faster than a bullet in a toilet in the last decade!

For the most part, our NPR in Upstate NY right now is slightly better than what I heard when I lived in NC a few years ago.
But, that's like saying, "You know, yeah, the Pittsburg Pirates suck! Even our Kansas City Royals don't suck as much!!"

aimai said...

I heard a really weird NPR piece where they interviewed some guy (I didn't catch his name) who purported to have done a study arguing that violent video games were not likely to cause children to act out violently--but he also argued that video games, however addicting, would not hurt children's participation in sports because they could (could,not did) "try out the moves they saw in sports themed videos themselves."

As Mr. Aimai pointed out why is it more likely that they will try football moves in real life than that they will try their imagined shooting skills? Aside from the absurdity of thinking that video sports could be a good training model for actual physical activity rather than a substitute for physical activity.

TG said...

I'm trying to figure out what exactly is your complaint here. Should this not have been reported upon at all? I was unaware that shooting ranges were trying to be "family friendly" destinations, so it was news to me. I find that interesting, if also disturbing.

Should they have said "This exists, and it is awful!!" Unless there is documented evidence that these "Family Shooting Centers" (yes, that name gives me the creeps) produce some sort of societal harm, I don't think that messaging would have been appropriate for a news organization.

As someone who finds the spread of gun culture troubling, I'm glad to know that this exists (as opposed to it existing and me not knowing). And I don't see how it was NPR's job to paint these ranges or their proprietors or customers as heinous unless that there is some evidence that they are, indeed, objectively heinous.

So as far as I can tell, your complaint is either:

A) NPR informed me that these things exist, and I would have preferred to remain ignorant.

or

B) NPR reported on these things without making the people involved sound like child molesters. (even though there is no evidence that they are doing anything objectively wrong).

Is it one of those two things or did I miss something?

Sean Riley said...

Fetishists enjoying their fetish of choice. And so it goes...

Steve M. said...

TG, this story was not written by a journalist -- it was written by a publicist for a gun-industry lobbying firm, then spoon-fed to the NPR reporter who rewrote it. It's PR designed to rebrand the gun industry. In a real piece of journalism, the rebranding efforts would be the story.

And I'm not convinced that any of this is new in any case -- in the heartland, guns have always been seen as mom and apple pie.

Uncle Mike said...

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that this story surfaced on NPR now. I'm sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with the recent bad publicity of a few dead kids. I'm sure this story has been in the pipeline, oh, a good week or two. At least.

TG said...

"TG, this story was not written by a journalist -- it was written by a publicist for a gun-industry lobbying firm, then spoon-fed to the NPR reporter who rewrote it. It's PR designed to rebrand the gun industry."

Do you have evidence of this? That's an inflammatory claim. Given the fact that you did not provide any evidence of this in your post, I assume you do not have it. In fact, you say that you are merely assuming that the NSSF was the source of the story. Why not email the author and/or the NPR ombudsman to find out?

And even if that was the genesis, I still don't entirely understand the complaint. What viewpoint was left out of the story? They didn't talk too much about gun control measures, but the article wasn't about gun control measures. If the article was about pro-choice support clubs popping up, would you demand that they spend a great deal of time talking about pro-lifers? They'd probably get a mention, but not prominently -- just like gun-control advocates got here.


"In a real piece of journalism, the rebranding efforts would be the story."

That's exactly how I read this story. The very first line is "The traditional American shooting range is extending its range." Sounds like a story about rebranding to me.


"And I'm not convinced that any of this is new in any case..."

It strikes me as unlikely that "zombie shoots" have been around prior to the zombie fad of recent years. The story mentions new ranges opening up and a wedding chapel being added. Sounds like new stuff to me.

Honestly, I think the real issue you had with the article is encapsulated here:

"It's mom and apple pie! It's girl power! How can you possibly criticize this, totebagger?"

Obviously you were unable to find a way to criticize the actual owners and customers of the ranges, so instead it seems you criticized NPR for making you aware of them.

If NPR painted a false impression of these ranges -- if in fact the ranges are largely dens for homicidal maniacs and anti-government militia types -- then they deserve criticism. But that doesn't seem to be your point (nor the case).

You seem simply to be complaining that a subset of gun enthusiasts was portrayed as relatively normal, decent people. If that's an accurate portrayal, what's the problem? Is it that it interferes with your preconception that all gun owners are neanderthals? And rather than revisit your preconceptions, you'd rather lash out at the media outlet that forces you to see (some) gun owners as regular people?

The reason I'm objecting is that this sounds quite a bit like a winger complaining that the media is delivering stories that show that climate change is real or that Iraq was a disaster. Rather than grapple with the actual facts of the matter, the winger shouts "LIBERAL BIAS!" and throws his head back in the sand.

I feel like that's what I'm seeing here.

If the truth is that a significant portion of gun owners are regular people like those portrayed in this article, then it is vital that those of us who are interested in stricter gun control be aware of this and keep it in mind. We need to create gun control laws that don't affect these people's hobby or we need to be prepared to communicate to these people why the greater good requires ruining their hobby. Either of these things is possible, but if we move forward without preparing for a potential backlash from these people, we're just making it harder on ourselves.

Steve M. said...

My "preconception" is that "nice" gun owners are enabling a gun culture that lets very not-nice people get their hands on guns pretty much at will. They're enabling it by not putting distance between themselves and industry lobbying groups like the NRA and NSSF, which stand in the gunshop door and refuse to allow any changes to gun laws.

I feel about these "nice" gun owners the way I feel about "nice" Catholics who don't feel contempt for molestation-enabling priests, or about "nice" Pennsylvania residents who defend Sandusky and Paterno and Penn State.

Imagine if, after the Sandusky case broke wide open, NPR had done a story about the wonderful Penn State football culture that barely mentioned the Sandusky scandal. Everything said to be wonderful about the culture might actually seem perfectly nice -- but it would be an extremely incomplete portrait of the culture, one that ignores the malign elephant in the room.

That's how I feel about this story.

BH said...

Same here, Steve. And FWIW, I own a shotgun. It's for killing poisonous snakes - I live in the sticks. And at age 61, I've never had a thing to do with the damn NRA or any other gun-related organization & never will. I think their leaders are fanatics, and that many if not most of their members are crackpots. If the 2nd Amendment disappeared tomorrow morning, & the result was that I needed to relinquish my shotgun, it wouldn't bother me a bit. There's more than one way to kill a rattler.

TG said...

"Imagine if, after the Sandusky case broke wide open, NPR had done a story about the wonderful Penn State football culture that barely mentioned the Sandusky scandal. Everything said to be wonderful about the culture might actually seem perfectly nice -- but it would be an extremely incomplete portrait of the culture, one that ignores the malign elephant in the room."

If that was the only story they did about Penn State, that would be a big mistake. But if it was one story amidst several others detailing the specifics of Sandusky's crimes and the enabling culture, I think it could help us outsiders to realize why Penn Staters are so loyal, even after the scandal.

I mean, people would know that the only reason Penn State is being discussed is because it is in the news in a non-favorable light, much like anybody hearing/reading this story knows that the only reason it's being discussed is due to guns being in the news in a non-favorable light.

Check out the comments to the article. The top-rated comment (from J LW) is about a gun owner who opposes the NRA. The second highest rated (from Cyn B) is another gun owner who supports background checks and limits in military-style weaponry. The third (LarryRow) says "I have a problem with people who own a gun and don't go to the range!". It seems likely that he supports reasonable gun safety.

These are people who could be your allies in getting gun safety laws passed. But you're automatically assuming they're enemies with no evidence. I mean, they explicitly quote a woman who says she does not plan to use the gun "in reality", just in the range. None of them are quoted as opposing any gun control measures.

Why create enemies out of potential allies? How does that help solve the problem?