Herald-Whig View

Terror and heartbreak comes to the newsroom

Posted: Jun. 29, 2018 10:10 am

The editorial appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

THE killing of five of our colleagues at the Annapolis Capital Gazette and the shooting of several more is heartbreaking. Reports from Capital Gazette staffers about the scene -- a gunman shooting through a glass door, people hiding under their desks and listening to him reload -- are horrifying, and we are deeply grateful to the police who arrived almost immediately and took the alleged gunman, identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, into custody. We can only speculate about how much worse the devastation could have been without their bravery and professionalism.

Word of a shooting in the newsroom spread rapidly through the media far beyond Maryland as reporters reflected on their memories of working at the Capital or community newspapers like it and contemplated the possibility that their newsrooms could become scenes of violence, too. Police swept through the Baltimore Sun's building as a precaution, and New York police reportedly fanned out to news organizations in the city just in case. Other media companies said they were increasing their security. At a time of political divisiveness when views of the news industry itself have become starkly polarized, many jumped quickly to speculation about whether the metaphorical war on the media had become shockingly literal.

Journalists in other countries are murdered with shocking regularity. Before Thursday's attack, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed 1,306 such killings since 1992, only seven of which occurred in the United States. But after seeing elected officials shot, from former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the fear that we could be targeted because of our role in public life is something most journalists have felt. That's why so many reporters across the nation got a sickening feeling Thursday afternoon -- they couldn't believe something like this had happened, except that they could.

Police sources say Mr. Ramos had a longstanding dispute with the Capital Gazette and targeted it specifically. Years ago, he filed a defamation suit that was ultimately decided in the paper's favor by the Court of Special Appeals. But that explanation is hardly satisfying. It never is. Killing like this is nothing but madness, no matter what terms it's couched in. We can never understand it.

The fear journalists feel today is no different from the one high school students felt after Parkland or clubgoers felt after the Pulse or people at music festivals felt after Las Vegas. The truth is, nowhere can feel safe anymore. Not churches, not shopping malls, not factories, not office buildings.

As journalists, we have covered more mass shootings than we care to count. Today gun violence hit our family, and we are feeling its pain more acutely than we could have imagined.

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