Coverage of California gun laws wins BANG DFMie for Josh Richman

Headline: Assault weapons: What are they and should they be banned?
Outlet: San Jose Mercury
Journalist: Josh Richman
Tags: ,

As gun control and gun-owners’ rights became one of the hottest issues in the nation, Josh Richman examined California’s long history of gun control. His thorough reporting won the January DFMie for the Bay Area News Group.

Managing Editor/Content Bert Robinson explained the project in his nomination:

California occupies an interesting place in the gun control debate — much of what’s being debated on a national level, from the assault weapons ban to enhanced background checks to a limit on the size of ammunition magazines — is already the law here. BANG political reporter Josh Richman is capitalizing on the California experience, writing about national gun control issues with the benefit of California’s triumphs and struggles. In mid January, he jumped on one of the biggest issues that Congress must tackle — one, frankly, that California has never really solved: How do you define an assault weapon?

Josh’s story plumbed the history of the California law, and an accompanying graphic (below) by Chuck Todd and Karl Kahler showed where California ended up and how that works in practice (not as logically as we might wish).

Josh’s second piece, on Jan. 31, examined California’s background check system, showing how much more rigorous it is than the current national model. Josh dug up numbers on how often applicants fail the background check — not often, as it turns out, but more often in California than elsewhere. Another sharp graphic, this time by Doug Griswold, walks readers through the way the system works.

The judges — winners of December DFMies — praised the results:

The timely stories do California readers a service by explaining the state’s laws and their effectiveness in a fairhanded manner — a position that’s pretty hard to achieve with this heated issue. The accompanying graphics are interesting and helpful. The stories were inspired by national headlines but benefited from good research, experience and observation.

They took a very newsy national story and found a way to localize it in an informative and interesting way. Although a lot of people are aware of the gun debate, many people don’t know what the different types of guns look like. The graphic adds a visual element to the story while also offering more information. The in-depth analysis in both stories offered a lot detail about gun laws that isn’t available in most of the national stories on the topic.

Another judge:

They took a very newsy national story and found a way to localize it in an informative and interesting way. Although a lot of people are aware of the gun debate, many people don’t know what the different types of guns look like. The graphic adds a visual element to the story while also offering more information. The in-depth analysis in both stories offered a lot detail about gun laws that isn’t available in most of the national stories on the topic.

Another judge:

The work is both explanatory and investigative and represents vital public service to his readers. He provided them with solid, in-depth, factual information about a raging debate marked by inaccuracies and emotional arguments on all sides. Josh cuts through that with good, useful information.

I find his work an example of journalism at its best. I learned a lot about the issue from reading Josh’s stories and from the excellent graphic that accompanied one of them. I will be showing this work to some of my own staff members in hopes that our readers can benefit from similar stories.

Other BANG finalists for January were Mark Conley’s pre-Super Bowl coverage of the San Francisco 49ers and Mike Murphy and Ann Tatko-Peterson for their internal reports on digital traffic, with tips on what’s working well.

assault rifle graphic

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