A news­room shat­tered

Dorchester Star - - EDITORIAL -

“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

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