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June 29, 2018

ANNAPOLIS

Five newspaper people were killed yesterday at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. I can't imagine how brutal that must be for the families. I met one of the victims, Rob Hiaasen, a few times; he was the brother of my close friend Carl Hiaasen. From all accounts Rob was a fine journalist and a wonderful man. My heart aches for his family, for all the families.

My heart also aches, on this sad day, for the larger family of journalists, especially newspaper journalists. It's a family of which I still consider myself a member. I started in this business in 1971, as a rookie reporter at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., for (if I recall correctly) $93 a week. Since then most of my friends have been newspaper people. No offense to any other profession, but these are, pound for pound, the smartest, funniest, most interested and most interesting people there are. They love what they do, and most of them do it for lousy pay, at a time when the economic situation of newspapers is precarious, and layoffs are common.

It's also a time when the news media are under attack -- for being biased, for being elitist and out of touch with ordinary Americans, for not caring about the nation. And I'll grant that in some cases, some of these criticisms are valid. There are cable-TV "news" operations openly devoted to either propping up or tearing down Donald Trump. There are newspaper journalists who seem far more interested in getting on TV, and jacking up their Twitter numbers, than being fair or accurate. There are incompetent, dishonest people in this business, as in any business.

But these people are a minority -- I think a tiny minority -- of news people, especially of newspaper people. There are over 1,000 daily newspapers in the United States, most of them covering smaller markets, like Annapolis or West Chester. The people working for these newspapers aren't seeking fame, and they aren't pushing political agendas. They're covering the communities they live in -- the city councils, the police and fire departments, the courts, the school boards, the high-school sports teams, the snake that some homeowner found in a toilet. These newspaper people work hard, in relative obscurity, for (it bears repeating) lousy pay. Sometimes, because of the stories they write, they face hostility; sometimes -- this happens to many reporters; it happened to me -- they are threatened.

But the news people I know are still passionate about what they do, and they do it remarkably well. And here's the corny-but-true part: They do it for you. Every time they write a story, they're hoping you'll read it, maybe learn something new, maybe smile, maybe get mad and want to do something.

That's what the people were doing at the Capital Gazette when they were shot. And the survivors, God bless them, put out a paper the next day. Because that's what we do in this business.

So criticize us all you want; when we screw up, feel free to call us on it.

But don't say we don't care. 

 

Comments

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Tears.
Tears and anger.

I defer to the reporter about thoughts and prayers

Thanks, Dave. As soon as I saw his name, I figured he had to be related to Carl Hiaasen.

Sadly, this is the country we live in now.

Well said.
Thank you.

I just don't understand why things like this happen. It's absolutely heart breaking. There is no excuse for this type of thing and I can't even begin to imagine what their families are going through. I'm probably one of the only people in my neighborhood who still gets a newspaper every day. In fact, I subscribe to two of them. I don't always agree with some of their opinions but I respect the fact they sat down to write a story for me, and others, to read.

Mrs. Miller, my high school journalism teacher, would have awarded you her "golden pencil" for your editorial, Dave. Although this was only a wooden pencil, it was a coveted prize, as she gave them out only for stories and page layouts that she considered perfect.

Dave, thanks for sharing your heart and a great piece. It's a crying shame that some of your best writing (including your "Hallowed Ground" column on the first anniversary of 9/11) comes in the aftermath of tragedy.

I second the kudos to the Capital Gazette for getting the paper out. Charles Kuralt did an "On The Road" segment about Tom Gish, editor and publisher of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg KY. The paper's masthead proclaimed "The Mountain Eagle -- It Screams." The paper managed to attract a good amount of controversy for reporting all the news, including an investigation of the local police department, and most of its equipment and files were destroyed when its office was firebombed in 1974. The paper still got out the next day, with a slightly altered masthead: "The Mountain Eagle -- It Still Screams."

Causes me to recall this. I was sitting in front of my TV watching a live Los Angeles local newscast in 1987 not long after we moved to the area and watched this as it happened live right before my eyes. No one was hurt as I remember.

I feel so bad for the victims, their families and loved ones in Annapolis. It is getting so you can't have confidence going anywhere.

When I read about Rob Hiasssen being a victim and that he was brother of Carl, I thought of you, Dave. I wanted to email you my condolences, but I figured you would be composing something so we could then add our own notes. I am dismayed at this event.
I hate seeing the name of the perps splashed in every story for weeks on end as an investigation is conducted and victims and their family members are hounded for some tidbit of information that has not yet been published. I hate seeing these people ask -repeatedly- for privacy as they mourn. I hate reading that those who knew the perp would say, 'Wow, that is the last thing I would ever suspect from him.' Or, worse, 'He's been posting threats on-line for a while now.' It makes me wonder if I might inadvertently tick someone off who would then harbor some seed of bitterness that would cause them to flip out.
The story that I read in The W Post quoted someone saying that these folks earn $30K and it's immoral to expect them to fight for their lives with nothing more than a desk. I quite agree.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Dave. Your thoughts and reflections are very well-appreciated.

Prayers to the families. I don't know about things. I'm going to go on a walk around town on my lunch hour. I might be asked by serveral homeless people for money. If I give them money, they will buy drugs/alcohol with it. I see people who are downtrodden, scruffy, with a hungry look in their eyes. I hope they don't have a gun. I just saw on the news that 500 medical people have been arrested for fraud ...opioid related. I work for a hospital. So many people with problems.....I wish I knew.

Another sad and meaningless murder of innocent people. We see far too much of this. Damn it, words fail to describe how bad this makes me feel. To say "sorry for your loss" is vapid.
The Capital Gazette did the right thing by keeping getting the news out. That was the best way to show the world that words will never be silenced.
Dave, thank you for writing this.

"Senseless"; "tragic"...Two words I wish I could stop saying.

Dear Dave,
Thank you for that heartfelt post, and my condolences for the loss of your colleagues. I have to add I'm angry that we as a country can't find a way to stop this.

Community journalism is a vital check on our public life. Hearing journalists called enemies of the people is unacceptable.

Sincerely,
Eric in New Mexico
aka/Alkali Bill

What a beautiful tribute, Mr. Barry. My heart aches for those who lost friends and family members in this latest act of mass-murder.

Thank you for this Dave. My heart is with the families, their colleagues, and all journalists today. I will take a newspaper over cable "news" every time.

When one random crazy person decides to do something evil, how can we stop him?

Gun, or bomb(s), or other weapon he could destroy many lives in a blink of an eye. So what do we do about it?

One thing in common is that these shooters have very serious mental issues. That's a clue. Today if a mentally ill person is caught committing a crime then they go to prison.

However prison is not a mental institution. In prison an inmate could get some meds, but that's only if they actively seek it out. And there would be little to no other help for these people. Most very mentally ill people don't want meds, and think they are not ill.

So our country is left with a choice, spend huge amounts of tax dollars on mental institutions and make sure that crazy people are helped, or continue on that path of endless arguing about gun control that will never happen, and meanwhile how many more lives do we loose before we change something?

Dave, beautifully stated, and thank you. Journalists are indeed a family, and I am so sorry for your loss.

As a licensed mental health counselor, I echo Rory's sentiments, and add to these my utter disgust with state governments such as that of my home state of Illinois and how they have slashed spending for mental health services to the point where nonprofits cannot help but fail to meet the growing need for these. Add to this the unreal proliferation of "black guns" in this society (vs. "blue guns," like the stock of your grandfather's old Winchester rifle), and you have the situation in which we are now all living. I often wonder what President Johnson, who signed into law the changes in mental health services back in the '60s, would think now.

We live in an age when most professions are defined by the bad apples and the shining examples of character are ignored. As a 30+ year veteran of Law Enforcement I know this to be true of my profession, so I should expect no less of yours. The shame is on both the public who paint us all with the brush of the bad actor, and the actors themselves who sacrifice our character for their own selfish reasons.

I have a saying: "I freely admit that some of the worst human beings I ever met were Law Enforcement Officers. However, MOST of the BEST human beings I ever met were also Law Enforcement Officers." I firmly believe this sentiment to be true of all of the "Nobel Callings", including yours.

My thoughts are with you all.

L8terg8r: Well said. Thank you.

Amen

Thanks, Dave and everyone.

Nothing I can add.

I live in Annapolis and I just returned from two commemorations for the murdered Capital-Gazette reporters: a vigil held across the street from 888 Bestgate Road, the scene of the attack; and a much larger march through downtown Annapolis followed by a vigil at City Dock, the main waterfront area. This was the perfect post to read upon returning home. I have many thoughts which I could share, but I won't do so tonight. Tonight, I only want to remember the five reporters: Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith.

It is so sad to hear of this. I love a newspaper. Sunday just isn't Sunday without sitting down and reading the paper and then eat Sunday dinner. You just can't figure out people today why they do such things.

I begin, at some point, to note that these crazy sort of things happened just as much in the past, but went unreported due to less WWW & internet influence. Things go viral at the click of a mouse, giving the impression that it's so much worse these days.

That said, there's always some with an agenda to push, be it total gun control or a police state that would "save" us from these sort of events. With proper monitoring of the emotionally unstable (read "crazy"), we could decrease these incidents exponentially.

It would take a sea change of law interpretation regarding people who might be injurious to themselves, or more importantly, others. It would also need more examination of social media, re: threats, implications, etc. It's a slippery slope to the "police state", and we might wind up taking that first step ourselves...

Thanks for YOUR service Dave, and your journalist family across the country. When I heard the news of the shooting yesterday morning this blog is the first place I looked because I wanted to hear what you had to say about it. You and your colleagues work are greatly appreciated, and probably also equally under appreciated by many. Thank you!
Sean

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Dave, and for the service of journalists to our society.

Nobody could say it better, Dave. May you never have to write another piece like that.

Jewelry stores have armored up. Airports have armored up. Court Houses have armored up. Schools are recently armoring up. I guess everyone's going to have to raise their shields, like on Star Trek. The crazies can't seem to restrain themselves and we haven't the will to restrain them.

Thank you for giving voice to what many of us are feeling. Those who have served on newspapers, or still serve, feel a sense of service to their community.
They strive for accuracy, often under deadline pressure. They also may face down the powerful pressure of people who don't want the facts printed.

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