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Working to honor the Annapolis Five: Editorial

Posted 7/3/18

It was nearly a week ago that a gunman who authorities say had a longstanding feud with the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, opened fire at the newspaper office, killing five …

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Working to honor the Annapolis Five: Editorial

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It was nearly a week ago that a gunman who authorities say had a longstanding feud with the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, opened fire at the newspaper office, killing five journalists.

For us, words are still difficult to come by.

It’s tragic. Even President Donald Trump, no fan of newspapers, said: “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs.” 

We agree.

Gerald Fischman.

Rob Hiaasen.

John McNamara.

Rebecca Smith.

Wendi Winters.

They are dead. Their families are mourning. Journalists are rightfully shaken.

Yes, this “hits close to home,” as many media outlets around the country have stated repeatedly. That certainly is not to say that shootings at other businesses or in schools don’t resonate. But journalists are a tight-knit group. None of us on the Press & Journal Editorial Board knew the victims, or anyone who is working at the Capital Gazette. But it wouldn’t have surprised us if we did. The degrees of separation in this industry are few.

Despite ongoing and increasing attacks on media — and, thank God, until last week they were only verbal — we feel we are doing an important job, guaranteed in the Constitution, to inform the public.

But we feel the wrath of those of you who lash out against the industry — and that includes the Press & Journal, which many of you including Mayor James H. Curry III are fond of bashing.

And how can we not hear comments by the president that go as far back as February 2017, when he started called news media “the enemy of the American people”? Comments such as that have been sprinkled through Trump’s political narrative since then.

We aren’t perfect, but we are not the enemy. Far from it. As a whole, we are hard-working, caring and conscientious people.

The accused shooter apparently had a persistent quarrel with the Capital Gazette over stories written about his legal battles. That, too, rings a bell for us. We don’t always write about people at their best. That can lead to flat-out hostility from readers. But those threats are usually not physical, and rarely do they involve violence.

Outright hostility seems to be growing, however. The Associated Press reported that the Capital Gazette “received death threats and emails celebrating the shooting following the attack.” Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos said, before the shooting: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” although he later said he was joking. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center: “Andrew Anglin, the blogger and primary voice behind the racist and anti-Semitic website The Daily Stormer, posted a long diatribe about Yiannopoulos on Friday morning, and dismissed the deaths of the five journalists at the end. ‘But seriously — just straight talk here — there is no single group of people on the planet that is more deserving of just getting gunned down like animals,’ Anglin wrote.”

That is just a small sampling of the hateful, misguided comments about the media.

We will mourn the deaths of five journalists. The Press & Journal will stay “Annapolis strong.” We will continue to report on controversial topics, but not forget the great news in our community, such as the local bike giveaway and the local couple celebrating their 75th anniversary, stories you can read about elsewhere in this edition.

We have just passed the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the words of President Abraham Lincoln given in November 1863 during the Gettysburg Address seem to apply.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Our words can do little to honor those who died more than what has already been said, and we can’t ease the pain of those who left behind.

But we will continue to work hard at our profession. It’s a small way we can honor the five who are no longer with us.