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NYT Ends ‘The Gun Report’ — But Why?



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Op-Ed columnist for the Times, Joe Nocera, recently announced the end of “The Gun Report” (a daily summary of gun violence in America) writing that it had “run its course” and “was time to bid it adieu.” He added:

Day after day, week after week, there was a numbing sameness to the shootings. And to be blunt, most of those who posted comments were not getting closer to finding common ground than when we began.

Sounds like Nocera was frustrated that he wasn’t changing anyone’s mind, but that’s not the entire story.

Here’s Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the Times, with some additional information and the suggestion that a pay dispute between the Times and Nocera’s editorial assistant Jennifer Mascia had a role its end:

The Gun Report, begun shortly after the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., consisted of a daily list of all the gun-related deaths in the United States. Written in recent months by Mr. Nocera’s editorial assistant, Jennifer Mascia, it was published five days a week.With its grim recitation of incidents, topped by an engaging introduction, it generated a great deal of reader commentary – typically over 150 comments per post. And normally, the discussion, while passionate and well-informed, was remarkably temperate.

[. . .]

So why did it end, just as fatal shootings in Seattle, Las Vegas and Oregon were dominating the news?

Mr. Nocera told me that the blog had served its purpose. “It felt like the time had come,” he said. “We had made our point.”

Ms. Mascia sees a different motivation – one tied closely to her recent efforts to receive back pay for work done on the blog on her own time, and to get a promotion, giving her higher wages for her work. She and her union representatives believe the work on the blog is more like that of a reporter, editor or producer than that of a news assistant. The disagreement on back pay has not been settled. (She will continue with The Times as a news assistant to Mr. Nocera and columnist Mark Bittman.)

She told me that she had put her heart and soul into the project for well over a year: “I felt a real sense of purpose, and believed this was public service journalism.”

I asked Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, about the decision to end the report.

“It had run its course,” he told me. “It was repetitive, basically a list. I had been thinking about asking Joe to end it for some time.”

Well, duh. Nocera described the report in a final post as “a daily statement about gun violence in America.” Did Andrew Rosenthal expect something other than “basically a list?” If there was value in starting the list after Sandy Hook, why would that value end after a few years? The short answer is, it doesn’t.

I think if you combine the the two narratives, you get what probably happened. Nocera was tired of the entire project and had passed it off to Ms. Mascia, and Ms. Mascia wanted more money to keep writing it for him. The Times then decided it wasn’t worth it the cost. But that’s just speculation on my part. 

I do look forward to seeing how this ends. Is equal pay for equal work just a slogan that the Times uses to bash Republicans or do they practice what they preach? 

 



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