Friday was the one year anniversary of the Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland.
Five employees of the Gazette were killed and two injured by a man with a shotgun and a long history of mental illness.
Those five employees got up that morning to do their job, not knowing that day would be their last. Their names should not be forgotten:
• Gerald Fischman, a columnist and editorial page editor
• Rob Hiaasen, a columnist and assistant editor
• John McNamara, a reporter and editor
• Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant
• Wendi Winters, a community correspondent in charge of special publications
I remember someone turning the television on that day and my heart breaking at the news. How could I do anything but weep for my fellow journalists, who got up and did the same thing I did that day: went to work at their newspaper?
Journalism is a small world. There aren't many degrees of separation between us, and the pain felt in Annapolis was felt in newsrooms all over the world. One of the Gazette's journalists is Chase Cook, a University of Oklahoma graduate and former OU Daily staffer.
Then my mind went to all the angry callers and threats I'd received over the years and my staff just sitting out in an open newsroom. A few days after the shooting, a Cleveland County Sheriff's deputy did a walkthrough of our office with me, suggesting plans of escape during a live shooting situation and advising us on security improvements we could make. I appreciate CCSO for doing the walkthrough for us. At least we now have a plan if the unthinkable happens.
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Of course, some people wake up everyday to the reality that they might be shot at, namely police officers and military personnel.
Death in the line of duty is also a potential for journalists. Between 1992 and 2019, some 1,878 journalists have been killed around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ reports that 1,344 of those killings had a confirmed motive.
When people, particularly people in power, kill or threaten journalists in an effort to silence them, they do so because they fear the truth. They do so in order to continue manipulating, harming and exploiting people under their thumb. One of the first things a tyrannical ruler will attempt to do to consolidate power is take control of the media and shut down independent reporting. Journalism is key to the survival of a free, self-governing society.
Journalists aren't perfect: people in this industry make mistakes every day. But we're not the enemy of the people. We are the people's champions.
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On June 28, one year ago, at 5:38 p.m., Chase Cook tweeted this:
"I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow."
It's a sentiment echoed by newsrooms across the country. While the vast majority of us will never have to deal with something as tragic as what Cook and his fellow Gazette staffers did, the challenges newspapers face are tough. They hit every day.
But journalism is a calling, a lifestyle. It's one we're dedicated to, and we're going to deliver the news today and tomorrow and the next day, no matter what.