By Lee Williams
SASF Investigative Journalism Project
Earlier this month, this column ran a story that showed how USA Today had partnered with Bloomberg’s anti-gun propaganda factory, The Trace, for an investigative series – a collaboration which violated more than a few of the Gannett-owned newspaper’s ethical principles.
Now, it appears the relationship between Bloomberg’s anti-gun activists and USA TODAY has grown even more cuddly. The Trace activists – I cannot call them reporters – are writing “news” stories directly for the paper, as if they’re on the staff.
To be clear, anti-gun advocates whose stated goal is further restricting your constitutional rights are writing biased stories for one of the country’s largest newspapers, and no one at the paper seems to care.
The Trace describes itself as the “only newsroom dedicated to reporting on gun violence.” It has slick digital packages that are chockfull of stories, photos and videos, so it’s easy to confuse the Trace with an actual news website. But a news website it is not.
The Trace was founded in 2015 by former New York City mayor and staunch gun-control advocate, Michael Bloomberg. It operates as the propaganda arm for Bloomberg’s other anti-gun groups, which include Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, which Bloomberg also bankrolls.
The Trace advocates for more restrictive gun laws, but their message is a lot slicker than the handmade signs carried by Demanding Moms and Everytown employees. Reporters at the Trace are activists, not news reporters. They advocate for more gun control. That’s their job.
Last week, USA TODAY published a story titled: “The ATF’s failure to produce public records keeps the gun industry in the shadows.”
It was written by Daniel Nass, the Trace’s associate editor for data and graphics, and Alain Stephens, the Trace’s West Coast Correspondent. Stephens, you should know, describes himself as a veteran and a gun owner. There is no editor’s note explaining why the newspaper allowed a couple of anti-gun activists to write the story, rather than its own staff reporters.
This should tell you all you need to know about the newspaper, its leadership and their complete disdain for the truth, transparency and of course the Second Amendment.
I spent 20 years as a newspaperman – both as an investigative reporter and an editor. It used to be difficult for an activist group just to get a letter to the editor or a guest column published on the opinion page. Now, USA TODAY allows activists to write their own stories, which it then publishes as if they’re legitimate news. For any activist group, this is like winning the trifecta.
This is unprecedented, even for Gannett.
The newspaper’s ethical principle concerning Maintaining independence states: “We will maintain an impartial, arm’s length relationship with anyone seeking to influence the news,” and “We will be free of improper obligations to news sources, newsmakers and advertisers.”
How can the paper maintain an impartial and arm’s length relationship with anyone seeking to influence the news – as activists tend to do – if they allow the activists to write their own stories? How can USA TODAY be free of improper obligations if it allows advocates to write whatever they want?
Gannett’s Editing Skeptically principle requires editors to “protect against being manipulated by advocates and special interests.” The Trace staffers are definitely advocates, and it’s a special interest group, after all. How is this skeptical editing? How are the editors not being manipulated by advocates?
As I have said before on numerous occasions, when it comes to guns, the media could care less about ethics, accuracy or fairness.
Once again, I sent an email to Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president and publisher of USA TODAY, seeking comment for this story. I have yet to receive a reply.
That, too, is not a surprise.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.