A newsroom shattered
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
— the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
— Chase Cook, Capital Gazette
There are a lot of ways someone can serve their country. They can put their lives on the line in the military or as first responders. They can teach in classrooms, preparing the next generation of leaders. They can heal the sick. They can serve in public office. Those are just a few examples.
Journalists serve their country. The importance of what we do is listed right there in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Since before our nation fought for and won its independence, our leaders have recognized the important role journalists play.
Being a journalist is not a job. It is a calling. We do not turn in stories for the sake of meeting deadlines. We do it out of a sense of obligation to keep the community informed.
We were rocked last week when a gunman entered the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis Thursday and murdered five people. “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” tweeted Capital Gazette reporter Phil Davis while waiting to be interviewed by police after the shooting.
Those killed in the rampage were editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, assistant managing editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, sports writer John McNamara, sales assistant Rebecca Smith and editor and reporter Wendi Winters. A march was held in Annapolis the next day. “The people who made our newspaper are people we felt we knew even if we had never met them before,” marcher Benjamin Wilson told the Associated Press.
Jarrod Warren Ramos, 38, of Laurel is being held without bond on five counts of first-degree murder. He reportedly had a longstanding grudge with the paper after it wrote about his harassment of a woman, a case in which he pleaded guilty.
Sometimes subjects of our stories are unhappy with their portrayals. It is generally their own words and deeds that we publish. Politicians may not like their quotes in our pages, but rest assured, they said them. When you see quotation marks in this paper, you are reading word for word what someone said, and we have an audio recording to back it up.
So we receive angry phone calls and emails. We have received threats. But, we are happy to sit down and talk with anyone interested about our process, about our job, about the paper. We love what we do, so we enjoy talking about it, even — or perhaps especially — with those not happy with a story. And if we make a mistake, we will correct it.
As reporters, we hold no grudges against anyone. We strive to be objective. We go to a meeting or an event, we listen and we report back what was said. We read laws, budgets, plans and reports and we write about what they contained. We hold public officials accountable. We report the facts of tragedies in an effort to stave off additional pain caused by the rumor mill.
And we highlight the good people and happenings in our community.
We serve the community by listening and talking to its members — to you. We are your newspaper.
It makes our blood boil every time our president calls the news media the “enemy of the people,” and he has done it a number of times. He has regularly sought to agitate people at his campaign rallies against reporters there to cover them — pointing out the reporters, calling them “fake news,” “dishonest.” He has claimed that we hate this country.
We do not lay the blame for the tragedy in Annapolis on anyone but the gunman. We do lay the blame for people like him having access to guns on the inactivity of our national leaders. The body count continues to rise as they continue to offer little more than their sympathies.
We do this job — I do this job — out of a love for my country and my community. I do this to serve. I do this to inform. I do this to highlight both the good and the bad. I do this because I care about where I live and the people who join me in calling this place home — my friends and neighbors, anyone and everyone, you.
For this issue and the rest of the issues this month, you will notice a black ribbon through our masthead. We are in mourning for our fellow journalists, for Gerald Fischman, for Rob Hiaasen, for John McNamara, for Rebecca Smith, for Wendi Williams. Their efforts will be missed.
— Daniel Divilio, editor, Kent County News