The publication of such data, not the first of its kind, has revived a debate about privacy and journalistic freedom. There is speculation of legislative change to tighten information about permit ownership. The publication even prompted a blogger to respond with a list of names and addresses of many of the news organization's employees.
In his latest column, the Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins said there were several alternatives available to The Journal News to provide greater context and reasoning behind the publication. Just because technology enables the data's release doesn't make it journalistically necessary to pursue, he indicated. The map could have been organized around zip codes, not addresses (as they are in Canada with census data and postal codes).
Tompkins likened the publication to those involving sex offenders. The difference, he says, is that one group has been guilty of a crime in the past and the other hasn't. More importantly, the database missed certain categories of ownership and might provide a false sense of security, he said.
"I like it when journalists take heat for an explosive, necessary, courageous investigation that exposes important wrongdoing," he wrote. "There is journalistic purpose and careful decision-making supporting those stories. But The News Journal is taking heat for starting a gunfight just because it could."