I don’t know what to say about what happened in an Annapolis newsroom yesterday.
We don’t know full details about a motive, but reliable sources report he had history with the paper after a story was written about him years ago.
We don’t know his exact motive for acting on that anger yesterday — we don’t know what fueled the violence years after his run-in with the paper.
But we do know there are people actively cheering on social media over journalists being killed. We know there are tweets saying journalists aren’t humans and this is what they deserve.
I know what it’s like to huddle in the smallest room in a news building because a threat has been phoned in and I know what it’s like to walk past posters taped to walls and doorways showing the face of a man who should not be let into the building.
“Call police if you see this man on the premises.”
Threats and vitriol are delivered to newsrooms daily by mail, email, Facebook, Twitter and phone call.
That’s been the case for decades, but I’ve watched it get worse over the past couple of years.
So many people have told me when people in power speak badly about journalists, they mean the big guys — the CNNs or the NYTimes. They don’t mean local journalists serving the communities in which they live.
I was told I was taking it too personally when I was upset with the words our President used to describe journalists.
I was made to believe this couldn’t happen to a journalist like me; someone who covers feature stories and things that, by and large, make people happy.
That was wrong.
This wasn’t the big guys, not that they deserve to die any more than the rest of us — they don’t.
This was a newsroom at a newspaper of a similar size to the one I work for in a city that is comparable to my own.
These were people working at their desks just trying to meet their deadline on a normal Thursday.
Earlier this week I listened as our President came to South Carolina and pointed at my friends and colleagues working a long day to cover his visit and called them “the enemy of the people” in a room of thousands. And it hurt me. I can’t lie about that. It bothered me. But it comes with the territory these days and I’m often told I need a thicker skin.
That is, in some ways, a fair critique.
But if a gunman comes into my newsroom with the intent to kill indiscriminately, it won’t matter that I generally write stories about good things happening in our community like development or the graduation ceremony of a young woman with a severe handicap whose parents thought they wouldn’t get to see her grow past age three or four, and it sure as hell won’t matter how thick my skin is.
It will only matter that 12 years ago I decided on a career path that would make people hate me enough — without ever speaking to me in person– to end my life.
My heart is with everyone in the capital-gazette newsroom who not only lost people they care for, but had to watch the violence happen and with the families who won’t get to speak with their loved ones again.
Moving words, Elizabeth. Never for once believe that the work you do is not noble. In the climate of our world today, I believe that to stand up and boldly write or speak or report the well researched truth in the face of people and a president who will not hear it is a true calling. We must continue to ask questions of this administration and its leadership while reporting on the good news and highlighting all that is right in our world.
With your permission, this blog post will become one of the required readings in my classes this fall.
Thank you for your thoughtful words. The Capital still put out a newspaper this morning. Their reporters wrote about their dead colleagues. It is a testament to what journalists believe; that they have a responsibility to inform their community.
You’re welcome to share this post. Thank you again.