Something must change

“There are no 40-hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community. We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”

The Capital Gazette Editor Jimmy DeButts

It is, perhaps, too easy to offer condolences these days. One simply signs on to their favorite social media website, sees that someone is going through a loss, say that “our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and moves on with their day.

It takes something a bit more to really resonate. A personal connection — knowledge first-hand of the deceased, maybe.

We didn’t know Robert Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John MacNamara, Rebecca Smith, or Wendi Winters, but we mourn them regardless.

Because yesterday, we lost five of our own.

The newspaper industry, and the journalists which are a part of it, are often on the front lines, because they have a duty to their community to relay facts, and the unfortunate nature of facts is that they can only be obtained first-hand.

And the last couple years have not been kind to journalists, who have come under attack from pundits and politicians alike.

But now, we have bled. Now, we have had casualties.

So when we say that the families and friends of the victims, as well as the surviving staff at the Capital Gazette, have our condolences, you know we mean it.

From there, we must turn our thoughts to action — idleness in the wake of tragedy fails to result in a better tomorrow.

Politicians have long suffered under the media.

One of Nixon’s most poignant quotes, told to national security advisors Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig, warns to “never forget, the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy.”

Recently President Trump has joined in the assault, tweeting repeatedly sentiments such as his Feb. 17 tweet, where he states that the “news media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people.”

Of course, he draws a line between what, in his head, is “real” and “fake” news — a dangerous precedent which undermines the trust that you, our readers, have in the content that we produce.

We are here to tell you we are not your enemy. We have never been your enemy, dear reader.

We are, however, the enemy of disinformation.

We are the enemy of ignorance.

We are the enemy of social exclusion.

The newspaper exists as a service to the community: a well-reasoned, tightly-knit community, highly educated on today’s issues which affect us all.

Whether it is helping non-profits spread their message and assistance throughout the region, diving deep on challenging and controversial local issues, or just plain wishing your grandmother a happy birthday, newspapers are a community asset in a world which has increasingly abandoned the idea that a sense of community is important.

Obviously, we hope that this shooting at the Capital Gazette does not mark the beginning of an increase in violence towards journalists.

It may come across as disingenuous to say from the position of an editorial in a newspaper that we are against violence against newspapers, but the wider message is disturbing and must be called out as such.

A rising number of people are disappointed in our political process, but it bears consideration that the alternative to politics is conflict. Politics is supposed to be a vehicle by which disparate groups of people can discuss challenging issues rationally with one another, and reach a mutually acceptable compromise.

This shooting, as well as the others which have proceeded it and those which will doubtless follow it, is a symptom of our society’s inability to sit down with respect and talk to one another, despite…or specifically because of our differences.

Left, right, white, brown, male, female, straight, gay: all people desire comfort and happiness.

We all must embrace our neighbor, or this tragedy will repeat itself again and again and again, as the fires of our primal brains are stoked to react with fear and anger against those who are different than us.

In a world which is desperate to divide us, stand together; in a world where fear seeks to tear us down, stand tall.

And for Robert Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John MacNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters, five ordinary people going about their ordinary lives before being ruthlessly removed from this world, consider this — if we do not get about the business of removing this malaise from our society, if we do not start being able to resolve conflicts or disagreements without resorting to violence, their deaths as well as the deaths of countless men, women, and children before them who have died unexpectedly before the hand of violence, will surely have been in vain.

By Patricia Older

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