News Literacy

With freedom comes great responsibility, one to inform the general public and ensure that only factual information is presented.  Understanding that everything I write can reach anywhere from 50 to thousands of people, the need for truth is more important than nearly anything else.

Bulletproof Reporting

Ensuring that everything I write as a news report is completely impervious to criticism is largely important.

In December of last year, two Mountain Vista students allegedly planned to perform acts of violence against students and faculty at Mountain Vista. Thankfully, they were stopped from doing so.

The original reports were written up by Lauren Lippert and Savanah Howard. I did the majority of the editing on the piece, making sure it was ready to go in every way, shape and form before publishing it.

When the first student, Sienna Johnson, completed her hearing and was set to be tried as an adult, Savanah wrote the follow up which I once again took the lead on editing.

The second student, Brooke Higgins, completed her hearing a few weeks later. Because Savanah and Lauren both didn’t have the time to write the second follow up, I finished it up within hours of the court appearance.

To report for the newsmagazine, we combined the three pieces into one to provide an overall look at the situation.

Because both girls are currently awaiting trial on $1 million in bail each, the reporting couldn’t release any information that would falsely jeopardize the case. This means even the wording of what is said has to be specifically correct, or else it’s completely wrong.

Since the story blew up all over the nation, there were plenty of credible secondary sources to examine for information. On top of that, Johnson had created a website that published her journals online that was never taken down.

Addressing Bias

Because of my increase in involvement with politics, I’ve formed a lot of strong opinions on a lot of sensitive things. This means that when I write about things in my blog or in my opinion columns, I don’t hold back from taking a strong stance.

One thing I’ve been obviously opinionated on is weapon usage and accessibility in the United States.

Christian Holton and I used one of our columns in the Eagle Eye to take the opportunity to talk about gun rights.

My side was much more liberal than Christian’s, as could be assumed from our predispositions.

To ensure the evidence behind all of my claims are always suitable, I try my hardest to read as much as I possibly can and pull data and knowledge from only the most reliable of resources.

For the piece on gun accessibility, I pulled research from mainly primary sources such as Harvard University, Pew Research, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Constitution.

I only used top-notch sources because while my interpretation of facts may power a strong opinion, my fabrication or illiteracy of them would not.

Christian was able to help balance out and check some of what I said as well, so none of the facts I brought about even made the other side question my credibility. This allowed me to ensure that my argument would actually be productive in reaching a broad audience, regardless of whether or not everyone truly agrees.

The final print edition of my story can be found on the right half of the page below or in the text that follows. The research is also emphasized by ThingLink.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Confusing grammar and misconstrued connotation aside, the Second Amendment is now the most modified, explained and complex amendments in the United States’ Constitution.

To present this best, let’s consider that U.S. v. Cruikshank ruled “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” in 1876.

When Founding Fathers like James Madison sat down with quill pen in hand to propose legislation to ensure “well-regulated” restrictions could be imposed upon gun ownership, massacres of kindergarteners and college students, skyrocketing suicide rates, gang violence and a disproportionate amount of dead minorities were not the first circumstances that popped into their minds.

Instead, men like Madison were likely thinking of what benefits a “well-regulated Militia” holds in terms of a free society — and they likely came up with the idea that without regulation, the proposed citizen-led army would be a bunch of freelancing, gun-toting individuals causing tyranny over those who held no weapon or had no means of other protection.

But, some would argue, Madison wrote down that it’s an American right — even if that’s in the case of an assault rifle or an automatic gun or a high-capacity magazines.

The answer is yes: It is the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The answer is also yes: It is the responsibility of the people to make sure that in doing so, the people are safe.

On the other hand, the answer is also no: Madison didn’t jot down all persons who have no business owning a gun can waltz into whatever store they please and grab a weapon no questions asked.

In this sense, Madison geniusly scripted this so that we may now abandon the argument of who gets what and work towards solving the issues at hand (although our nation never does that).

Pew Research reports that Americans, for the first time ever, are massively more concerned with protecting their right to own a weapon than they are with ensuring the safety of the people by limiting that right for others.

This study comes at a time when gun production is at an all-time high. And of course, a gun in 1791 was exponentially more pathetic than any you’ll find nowadays.

(If Madison was here today to see that the government allows anyone to buy literally any fully-automatic gun crafted before the mid 1980s, I’m sure he wouldn’t be too happy.)

But to avoid an endless, circular argument regarding Madison’s intentions and to hopefully keep him from turning over in his grave, our nation seems to humor itself on assuming the Second Amendment actually means what the gun lobby has portrayed it to mean: That any U.S. citizen maintains the constitutional right to gun ownership.

This idea is completely flawed, alarming and dangerous. Whether it’s homicide, suicide or terrorism, our gun legislation allows tens of thousands to fall victim to bullets every year without once questioning the sanity of our disposition.

But unfortunately, Madison isn’t here to set the far-right of the gun lobby and the NRA straight. And so we’ll continue to fight over why states should not be obliged to require background checks, why gun shows selling weapons with only limited restraint is A-OK, why we can’t do anything to prevent mentally ill individuals from obtaining guns and why it shouldn’t be our problem that our government is condoning criminals and terrorists to possess weapons that potentially wipe law-abiding citizens of their future freedoms.