The journalism community mourns the loss of our own
On Thursday, June 28, five staff members at the The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md., were gunned down inside their own newsroom. The journalism community has been in a state of mourning ever since.
The victims include Rebecca Smith, sales assistant; Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor; Wendi Winters, special publications editor; John McNamara, staff writer; and Robert Hiaasen, assistant editor and columnist.
Police confirmed that this was a targeted attack. The gunman had a grudge against the paper over its coverage of a 2011 criminal harassment complaint against him. The journalist who originally wrote the piece has not been employed at The Capital for several years.
When I first got the notification from NPR about the shooting on my phone, I was completely stunned. Am I shocked that this happened? Unfortunately not. It seems as though there is no regard, no sanctity for life anyone in this country.
As journalists and speakers of the truth, sometimes the stories we write about people are difficult. Do I want to write about death, corruption and violence? Not really. But I, as an ethical journalist, have to write about stories I believe the community needs to know about. But never before have I feared for my life after I’ve written about someone or something.
I have a Texas Press Association sticker proudly displayed on my truck. I don’t have it on their purely for aesthetic reasons, but should I need to cover an accident or a major event, it helps identify who I am. The same reason why we wear press badges. A few other women journalists and I have a group chat on our phones. We bounce ideas off of each other, provide emotional support, as well as send funny dog photos (you have to have some humor in this job). We talked about taking our TPS stickers off of our vehicles. The fact that we even had to discuss that makes me angry. The staff at The Capital were just trying to do their jobs and go about their day when they were senselessly murdered.
Let me repeat that. These five staff members, one who wasn’t even a journalist, were murdered in their own office by a man who was mad that the paper published something about him that was public knowledge.
Kathy Cruz, a Texas community news crusader and author, penned a book titled, “You might want to carry a gun,” about community journalists who have put themselves in harms way to write about corruption in their towns. I’m sure more community journalists will be thinking about getting their CHL after this.
In a time of political strife where there is distrust in the news media, I want to thank you for supporting your local newspaper. Because I do all of this for you, the reader. Journalism matters.
Bethann Coldiron is the editor of the Burleson Star. Want to talk about the journalism process? Call her at 817-295-0486.