Every week at LEO, we start off with a plan for the next issue. Some stories have been in the works for weeks, even months. For me, it’s usually by Wednesday or Thursday when I’ve got an idea of what I’m going to write about in this space. All of that can change in an instant, and it did this week, when a gunman attacked a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Capital Gazette, like all daily newspapers, is familiar with this — overhauling entire issues constantly. That happened to their newsroom last Thursday in the most horrifying, tragic way imaginable.
Yet, despite that, those left behind did what journalists do: They regrouped, reported and delivered a paper the next morning.
Nobody would have blamed them for missing an issue.
They got a paper out because journalists know what they do is crucial, and to not publish is to let the people who would stop them… win.
The victims in last week’s shooting were editors and journalists who covered a range of subjects, including a Sunday columnist, a sportswriter and community reporter. One of the victims was a sales associate. They, like the survivors, shared the belief that producing The Capital Gazette serves a vital role in their community. It is a public service envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and is woven into the fabric of democracy.
Breaking news and investigative journalism are only a part of that public service. Festivals, sports, arts, music, business — and anything that contributes to the culture of a community — are important topics that journalists cover.
My column this week was going to be about the Explorer Scout investigation report because it is important that our readers understand another perspective on the findings, or at least know that there is a report. Instead, I hope this column serves as a reminder that journalists are incredibly vulnerable, and are increasingly coming under attack. Last week it was a gunman, but days before it was President Donald Trump and Gov. Matt Bevin who wielded rhetorical attacks on the press.
Our governor singles out a reporter by name and continually presses attacks on the media.
We all know what Trump thinks of the fake media.
The Capital Gazette’s subsequent decision to publish the next day after the attack underscores the passion that drives journalists to show up every day, despite the odds against them, and put out stories that keep the light shining on politicians and others.
This is what the people in The Capital Gazette newsroom do. This is what we as an industry do.
If newspapers are prevented from reporting, the guns and gunmen have won. If writers and editors bow to threats of violence or the harassment of reckless politicians, they win and our community loses.
That is why the response from The Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook was, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
That is why, despite any fears or reservations, I make sure to call out the evil NRA lobby and the politicians who sell their souls to the gun industry’s lobby, as well as the cruel, ignorant politicians who recklessly incite this madness — among them, Trump and Bevin.
That is why Bevin must be called out every time he disrespects the victims with prayers instead of action, and blames video games instead of guns.
Gun violence can be prevented. But only if journalists keep writing, keep reporting and keep printing — just like The Capital Gazette.
The Capital Gazette editorial page the following morning read:
“Today, we are speechless.
This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office:
Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.” •