As a trollish critique of a recent Des Moines Register interactive map detailing which Iowa school districts had on-campus security, The Iowa Republican managing editor Jeff Patch created a Google map identifying the addresses and home values of Register editors and executives. Last week, the Register‘s map had been quickly removed from the story it complemented after angry readers alleged that the paper had just given a crazed gunman a guide to finding vulnerable children to massacre.
Earlier today I gave Patch a shout-out for his thoroughly entertaining, if not especially timely, expose of bizarre one-time state Senate candidate Randi Shannon. But his latest report is just a disingenuous attention-grab that mimics what a New York blogger did after another newspaper owned by the Register‘s parent company Gannett published a map with names and locations of people with handgun permits.
Gun owners had a point with the handgun permit report. The number of handgun permits in a county is valuable information, but singling out individual gun owners and where they live, although a matter of public record, is of negligible news value and arguably an invasion of privacy. In fact, the Register recently made a similar map in a much more sensible way that used similar data much more effectively.
The Register‘s report on school security guards would have been better had it mentioned how rare school violence is, and how guards “set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers as well the youth themselves and their communities.”
But the map didn’t even specify which schools in a district with security guards had them, and the accompanying story explained that schools without on-campus security were in regular communication with local law enforcement.
That didn’t stop Fox News host Megyn Kelly from continuing to manufacture controversy over the map. A day after scolding Register editor in chief Rick Green, she invited an “outraged” Des Moines dad named Dave on her show. “[I'm] pretty shocked, to say the least,” Dave told Kelly.
Dave said he didn’t think that the Register‘s map would lead to another Columbine or Sandy Hook. But, he added: “Clearly a more likely scenario is some very disgruntled or unhappy non-custodial parent now has an interactive map to figure out where the best place is to kidnap their [the school's] kids. It’s terrifying to the average Iowan that that’s the case.”
Then Dave suggested that the Register should be held liable if someone actually shot up a school.
That’s the sort of rational thinking to which The Iowa Republican is pandering.