Thoughts on the Tragedy in Annapolis

It’s been roughly 10 months since my last byline appeared in print. I left my job at a daily newspaper to attend law school full time, but I did spend the better part of five years working at two different daily newspapers (as well as some time at a weekly newspaper and some monthly magazines).

When I first saw the news of the shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, come across my Twitter feed, I felt a hole in my stomach. It was a nightmare come true, yet still somehow completely unfathomable.

The thought of reporters (and one marketing person) being gunned down in their own newsroom–the place that is the safe haven for the free exchange of ideas and creativity–is unspeakably horrible.

Anyone who has spent time working in news has received varying levels of threats, whether they are as extreme as death threats or as vague as something along the lines of “sure would be a shame if something happened.” We’ve all been “fake news’d” by people who don’t like the story, and occasionally when that happens, the person takes it even further. I was fortunate to never receive a death threat, but I worked with people who did. While they’re always taken seriously, there’s only so much you can do. You never think this is going to be the result of those threats. Or maybe you just hope against hope.

When I read the accounts of what happened, I imagined how things might have played out if there was a madman in one of the newsrooms in which I worked. My heart breaks again and again for every one of the victims, their friends and family, and the survivors.

As tempting as it is to politicize this tragedy, this was pretty clearly the result of a mentally unstable person who had a personal vendetta against the newspaper, at least according to initial media reports. It can also be true that it’s absolutely disgusting for our president to call the press the enemy of the people. But we must acknowledge that there is no evidence that such inciting words had any sort of effect on this deranged man. It seems that he was plotting this for a long time.

At the same time, I saw accounts of the surviving reporters who were determined to make sure they got the paper out for the next day, and it moved me to tears. Journalism is not a field you get into for money or fame, it’s something you do because of a passion for storytelling and finding the truth—particularly at a smaller newspaper. That was absolutely on display there.

If any good can come from this, I hope it’s that the importance of good local news is underscored for people who may not have thought about their local paper recently.

 

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