A deranged reader walked into the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday, with shotgun blazing.
He didn’t walk into the offices of the Piqua Daily Call — and yet, he did. Because we journalists are all in this together.
Jarrod Warren Ramos killed four writers and a sales representative. Today, all the writers and sales reps at the Piqua Daily Call are alive — and yet, we’re not. Not wholly. Because Ramos killed little pieces of us, too.
News reports say he “had a long, acrimonious history with the newspaper, including a lawsuit and years of harassment of its journalists on Twitter.”
Every newspaper has detractors. It has long been a community sport to impugn the local “rag.” The stories aren’t good enough, long enough, short enough or well written. There’s too much “soft” news and not enough “hard” news. There’s too much “hard” news and not enough “good” news.
In the last few years, slamming the press has felt like a national pastime.
Sometimes, angry response comes from readers or story subjects because we’ve told “inconvenient truths.” Truth is seldom comfortable. But truth is what all responsible journalists — and the ad reps who support them — strive for no matter what the consequences. Even as newspapers seem to close almost weekly, readers’ need for responsible journalism — whatever the medium — increases.
In an environment fueled by distrust of those who go after the truth, in which the president calls the press the “enemy of America,” when understanding of the press’s most important job — holding those in power accountable — is waning among the general public, it’s surprising that such an attack didn’t happen sooner.
But it seems those weren’t the reasons Ramos went on a rampage, Thursday.
Apparently, the Capital Gazette attack was by a man who had hated the newspaper for almost a decade. A surviving editor had considered filing a restraining order against him five years ago. Apparently, it wasn’t a general attack on the press but a personal vendetta carried out against specific writers.
We never knew them. And yet, we did. Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith didn’t sit next to us in the Piqua Daily Call offices. But Laurel Butt, Rob Kiser, Crystal Sale, Michael Mullinger, Tammy Patrick, Mike Ullery and Sam Wildow do.
We’re all in this together, all of us, across the nation and around the world. Just like the people in the Capital Gazette newsroom, we’re in mourning, too.