9News did the right thing by putting manipulative banner in context

You’re feeling pretty good right now if you were one of the gun-rights activists who paid for the biplane that flew over the Colorado Capitol Monday carrying a banner: “Hick: Do Not Take our Guns.”

Local reporters ate up the banner, and a Google search turns up about 2,000 hits.

One problem: The banner is totally misleading, in the context of what is actually happening below the plane on the ground at the Capitol.

If you own a gun, you won’t lose it under the proposed legislation. And if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the bills won’t affect your ability to buy a gun.

As such, you’d think reporters who cited the banner would have pointed out, hey, its message doesn’t connect with reality in Colorado.

But just one story bothered to say that the banner was a sky-high form of manipulation.

As far as I can tell, only 9News’ political reporter Brandon Rittiman did the right thing and put the banner in context:

A constant drone of honking car horns could be heard from inside the governor’s office, part of a demonstration against the gun control measures. A hired airplane flew over the Capital for hours towing a banner that read, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS.”

“There’s a plane flying around that’s saying, ‘Hick, don’t take our guns.’ Well, here’s the answer: we’re not taking any guns,” said the governor.

While nobody would have to give up a gun they currently own under the proposals, the protestors still see them as overly restrictive of the second amendment. [bigmedia emphasis]

Other reporters let the banner speak for itself.

Associated Press reporters Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt’s piece, which was picked up widely, including by the Washington Post, described some of the gun bills under consideration, but didn’t refute the implication of the banner:

A biplane flying above the Capitol Monday warned the governor, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” Hickenlooper backs expanded background checks and has said he’s considering a bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. He hasn’t indicated where he stands on other measures, including whether he supports a proposal that would hold sellers and owners of assault weapons liable for shootings by such firearms.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels and Kurtis Lee reported:

The biplane flying over the Capitol carried a not-so-subtle message to the Democratic governor: “Hick, don’t take our guns.”

(To be fair, Post coverage described the gun bills in separate articles, but still.)

Television stories by Fox 31’s Kim Posey and 7News Anica Padilla reported the banner and provided no context.

If you’ve made it to this point in this blog post, you might be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal. A manipulative banner. What else is new?

But the response by reporters to the banner is emblematic of how gun-rights activists have managed to push their accusation of a gun-grab into the debate at the Capitol without being called out on it.

The don’t-take-my-gun banner isn’t an outright lie that can be corrected, but reporters should try harder to defend readers from the you’re-going-to-lose-your-gun spin that’s being pushed at the Capitol.

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