Daily Beast To Publish Series Spiked Due To Pro-Gun Activist Outrage

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

A series of articles about one women's month-long experience owning a gun that was spiked by Ms. magazine after it sparked criticism from pro-gun activists will now be posted by the Daily Beast.

Daily Beast Senior Editor Harry Siegel would not say exactly when the series by freelance writer and gun violence prevention advocate Heidi Yewman would be posted, but confirmed it would run "presumably some time pretty soon," adding, "I think it's a good thing to run."

Ms. posted the first article in the series on June 12, which detailed Yewman's experience easily getting a concealed weapons permit and buying a gun without knowing how to use it. Three subsequent articles were set to run each following week detailing her experiences carrying and then disposing of the gun, but were canceled by the online outlet of the famed feminist magazine after the first due to outrage from pro-gun activists, Yewman said in an interview Monday.

"They ran the first one and they got a huge response, over 70,000 hits and over 2,000 comments immediately," recalled Yewman, who serves on the board of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and is author of the 2009 book, Beyond the Bullet. "So it was overwhelming to them. They moderate their comments so it became an overwhelming situation for them and a lot of the comments were real negative, how I'm an idiot, how I'm stupid."

Yewman said she was contacted by Michele Kort, a Ms. editor, via email on June 17 and told the magazine was not getting the response it had expected and was cancelling further installments in the series.

"She emailed me and let me know they weren't going to run it because it was too overwhelming ... they weren't trying to attract guns rights guys and that's who they were seeing was commenting," Yewman said, noting many of the online comments were abusive. "I think that there were a lot more people looking at their site than the gun guys. I disagree with their editorial policy, but they get to do what they want to do."

Joe Nocera of The New York Times published excerpts of Kort's email in a blog post on June 21 that criticized Ms., stating, "Ms. published something the N.R.A.-types didn't like; they responded by bullying Ms. online, and Ms. folded."

UPDATE: After the publication of this post, Ms. issued a statement denying that they had "allow[ed] ourselves to be bullied by pro-gun commenters" and saying they had offered to post the remaining pieces but had not heard back from Yewman. In an interview with Media Matters, Yewman said that she was "disappointed" that it had taken Ms. so long to come to that conclusion and said she has "an exclusive" with the Daily Beast to run the rest of the series.

Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms., dismissed the idea that the magazine caved to pressure, saying they were unwilling to publish the follow-up pieces because of technical issues caused by pro-gun activists' comments to the initial piece overwhelming their system.

"We think it was a great post, we were excited about the series," Spillar said Monday. "We have a moderated commenting system because we are frequently attacked by anti-womens rights campaigns, anti-abortion rights campaigns and so forth. We think it is an important series, we don't want people to misread Ms. magazine's position on this issue."

Informed that the series would be posted elsewhere, Spillar said, "We think that's terrific. We don't want people to think we caved to any kind of pressure, we don't cave, we just couldn't handle our commenting system."

Yewman said that some of the comments also sought to include her address, but Ms. removed it through its regular moderating process.

"I just said 'okay,' and I figured it was a good enough series that it'll get out there," Yewman said. "I was kind of having a fight with these gun guys anyway and I didn't want to fight with them."

Yewman said the Brady Campaign worked with the Daily Beast to come to an agreement for the upcoming publication.

Asked about the Ms. response, Yewman said, "I was surprised that it surprised them because I assume that they deal with a lot of abortion issues, really hot topic issues where they would see this kind of response. I was surprised at how quickly they made that decision. I don't think they made it lightly. It was unfortunate because they really did have a great opportunity to have a great discussion going."

Yewman, who had written an earlier article in January for Ms. about gun violence against women, said she approached Ms. with the idea for the latest series after finding out what it was like to own a gun, even for a short time.

 "I heard [NRA Executive Vice-President and CEO] Wayne LaPierre say the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun and I started to think 'what is it like to be that good guy with the gun?'" Yewman recalled. "What does it do to your mindset and your emotions?' A little thing I found out is that when you carry a gun on your hip and you get in a car, the seatbelt has to go over the gun and I started thinking what happens when you get into a car accident?"

"I became very fearful and wanted to see what does that feel like, it is not as easy as they make it out to be," she added.

The Ms. decision to cancel the series brought a critical response from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which posted a petition on its website that urged support for Yewman and declared: "Tell Ms. Magazine: Don't back down to pro-gun extremists. Publish Heidi Yewman's articles."

Ladd Everitt, a CSGV spokesman, said 550 people have signed the petition as of this afternoon. He said the Ms. excuse for spiking the series does not wash.

"The fact that other parties are willing to publish it makes it worse for what Ms. did," Everitt said. "The one thing we hate to see more than anything is cheap threats stifling the other side; that is what essentially happened here."

Yewman, who was not going to be paid by Ms. and will not be paid by the Daily Beast, feels vindicated that the series will run in its entirety.

"I really want to get these other articles published ... that is the plan right now," she said. "That's my concern, I did this, I don't have the gun anymore, but I want to get these articles out because it was an interesting article for sure."

Ms. Magazine
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