In the line of fire
Every morning for the past eight-plus years, I carry out the same routine after arriving at work: sit at my desk and begin checking emails. Last Friday, I also did something else: I checked my proximity in the office to the glass front door, the potential line of fire. I had never thought about doing that before, but everything changed after hearing about the horrific shooting at a community newspaper in Maryland. No doubt it was a thought that also crossed the minds of most of my colleagues that day.
On Thursday afternoon, June 28, a gunman opened fire through the door of the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, sending knifelike shards of glass into unsuspecting employees, before the barrage of bullets killed five people: a sales rep, reporters and editors. It was yet another nightmare scenario involving guns, such as the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., shooting at a school. This time, it was just a different venue.
We had all heard about the slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo Magazine in Paris in 2015, but I foolishly thought something like that wouldn’t happen at a local publication’s office in our country. It was a pre-Sept. 11 mindset for sure. But the time was right for it to happen here.
What occurred at the Capital Gazette is a sad commentary on where our country is today, beyond the need for gun reform. This massacre wasn’t just the work of a lone madman, upset with what that newspaper had written. It was the consequence of a pervasive, visceral anger—some of it directed at the news media—that is fueled by an atmosphere of hate and intolerance that currently exists on all levels of society and from a variety of points of view. Once that anger is unleashed, it’s difficult to contain, causing palpable fear and in a way, a loss of something we all tend to take for granted: freedom.
Bringing the news to our readers takes a lot of effort, and no one in our business takes that work lightly. We attend meetings and events, conduct interviews, and do research to check facts, making sure what’s in print is the most accurate information. It might not be something everyone is happy to read, but hey, we don’t create news; we just report it. No reputable reporter or editor sets out to make mistakes or to cause harm to any of the subjects of these articles. We sometimes do make mistakes, but when pointed out, they’re always corrected in the next issue and even before then online.
Opinion pieces such as this one and editorials provide another perspective on current events. Some might agree with the pieces, others might not, but that’s the whole point of writing and reading them, to open rational discussion that can hopefully lead to sharing different ideas. It’s a perfect exercise in First Amendment rights, and yes, the promise of freedom.
Aside from the obvious terrible loss of life, subliminally, last week’s incident was also an attempt to take away freedom from our free press. But that can never be allowed to happen.
A free press is something that we in the news media are committed to uphold with every new edition that’s turned out. Sadly though, from now on we’ll be doing that work while keeping a closer eye on the glass door.
And that’s the truth—not fake news!
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