May 2011

Downrange: May 2011

It is an axiom in journalism that the customer is always wrong—which, of course, stands the customary business wisdom of "the customer is always right" on its head. At least that’s the way it is in most newspaper newsrooms I’ve been in, and it’s even worse in the electronic media, which is much more of a beauty pageant than an episode of "Jeopardy." The derisive tone that "the talent" takes

Todd Woodard

Todd Woodard

when dealing with their readers, viewers, or users amazes me. Moreover, the journalistic gentry is often (usually) wrong, especially when it comes to guns and gun rights. They so misapprehend what the market really wants—facts piled upon more facts, and then some more facts—that they often go out of business. A relative of mine was recently an upper editorial manager for Newsweek. It sold for $1 a few months back, and he now works for a lefty electronic tabloid in Austin. A reporter acquaintance of mine works for the Washington Post’s Miami bureau, and he was on the "investigative team" that "broke" that massive numbers of guns were flowing from the U.S. into Mexico. I told him a year ago that BATFE played him into reporting cooked-up numbers to justify a larger budget. Now reports on Project GunWalker say that the agency is stonewalling to protect its managers from accountability for ordering stores to allow guns to "walk" into Mexico with drug-cartel repeat buyers. I think just about any Gun Tests reader would have seen through the ATF’s motives, but the Post’s reporter didn’t. Or wouldn’t.

And that is the setup for the point I really want to make here. Unlike some of my acquaintances in the publishing business, I hold my readership in high regard. Gun Tests readers are smart, informed, and engaged consumers and observers. Case in point: I get lots of mail asking for gun matchups. I am not offended by that. I have learned over the years that a single request is like the tip of the iceberg. Someone took the time to write and ask for something he was curious about. That tells me to stick my head underwater and look for the big frozen mass of gun interest I might have missed. It was letters like those that got us going in earnest on pocket 380s. We were slow seeing the trend, and you helped us catch up.

It also means I take criticism in the way it’s (usually) intended. Roger Eckstine and I have been using a slightly different reporting system (average group radius) for accuracy data for just over a year. There hasn’t been an outcry against AGR, but a handful of readers have asked for clarifications on how to relate the data to what they shoot—groups. One lifetime subscriber wrote in on the topic, saying it didn’t matter how good the data was if he couldn’t relate it to his own shooting. That was a point I hadn’t considered, so we’re talking AGR over some more. But the note proved once again that if journalists will just listen to what the customers say, we’ll get it right more often.

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