In my wasted youth, I was pretty much apolitical. As long as gasoline and ski passes were cheap, life was great. But then my dad bought me an SKS as a gag gift, and the next year, President Bill Clinton tried to take it away. I still have that rifle, and it shoots great.
But ever since, I’ve had a problem with gun control – and an even bigger problem with “gun journalism” as malpracticed by the conventional news media.
So, you might have noticed the huffy media flap about “Under the Gun,” a self-proclaimed “documentary” narrated by network TV superstar Katie Couric, produced by former network TV producer Stephanie Soechtig for Atlas Films.
At issue is a shamelessly creative interview “edit” with eight members of the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League, justly criticized by conservatives and gun-rights supporters as a deliberate attempt to embarrass gun owners. Even National Public Radio media correspondent David Folkenflik conceded the edit “would not pass muster at NPR under its principles for fairness in handling interviews.” I mean, that’s pretty bad.
Initially, cable/satellite provider EPIX declared the network “stands behind Katie Couric, director Stephanie Soechtig, and their creative and editorial judgment. We encourage people to watch the film and decide for themselves.”
How could I not watch “Under the Gun” – all of it, including credits, plus supporting materials on its promotional website? Wow – it didn’t take long to figure out that Soechtig and Couric didn’t just make an eight-second artistic booboo that Couric acknowledged as “misleading.” Every second of all 110 or so minutes of “Under the Gun” was created with an intent to mislead, with utterly no “fairness in handling interviews” evident.
In terms of head-count and “face time,” the pro-gun side was out “faced” (and outspun) at least 10-to-one.
Worse, the interviews were stacked in terms of “status.” Mostly volunteer proponents were shown in group settings or Leno/Watters-style street ambushes.
In stark contrast, almost all of over a dozen well-known, paid professional “gun safety” advocates enjoyed structured, one-on-one “home-office” interviews, and then given end credits as “experts.”
The biggest insult of all comes just before the credits, where those who refused an interview are listed, obviously as a means of shaming not only National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre, but fellow refuser Eric Holder, our recently-resigned attorney general.
One person who did assent was criminology researcher John Lott, whose work is generally viewed as “pro-gun.” After the editing controversy, Lott wrote how, in summer 2015, Atlas Films producer Kristin Lazure solicited an interview, claiming a desire “to give the film greater balance.” Lott gave a four-hour interview, but is nowhere to be found in “Under the Gun.” Wow, that was some “edit.”
At best, “Under the Gun” meets only the barest “documentary” criteria, primarily because producer Soechtig’s tightly scripted actors used their real names.
Leave it to a review in Yahoo News, where Mrs. Couric is “Global Anchor,” for a more honest, if ignorant, assessment: “[E]ffectively unnerving, infuriating, and heartbreaking, and the best film on firearms we’ve seen since the 2002’s Oscar-winning doc Bowling for Columbine” – meaning Katie Couric’s closest professional peer is Michael Moore – and that’s a shame.
Katie Couric’s amazing Television Hall of Fame career should represent all that is great and good about a free press in a free country with an informed electorate. With no more journalistic glass ceilings to shatter and the well-deserved freedom to do whatever she wants, including the production of documentaries that reflect the truth, what has Katie Couric chosen?
To produce (not for the first time) a vicious, slanted polemic, angering millions who will justifiably never again trust Couric’s reporting.
In my view, the muted “mainstream” response to Couric’s willing participation in agitprop raises legitimate questions not just about her own career, but the profession that elevated her. All Americans, not just gun enthusiast, should justifiably question how often, how badly, and on what topics did Couric (and her network contemporaries) generate “misleading” coverage over the years?
Only Katie will ever know, a sick, sad truth that even more shamefully will never be told by her peers in the profession formerly known as journalism.