Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

Local Maryland newsroom shows strength after shooting

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News | Jul 20, 2018

There is a time to mourn and a time to work.

Reporters, editors and other staff members at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. did both after a gunman opened fire in their newsroom, killing five of their own on Thursday, June 28.

The next day, they published a paper. Their lead story was about tragedy: “5 shot dead at The Capital.” Their opinion page was left blank except for three small paragraphs that read, “Today, we are speechless.

“This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shooting at our office: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters …”

The news cycle doesn’t stop just because you do. Despite the shooting, The Capital has continued putting out their daily newspaper without fail in part thanks to sister newspapers like The Baltimore Sun.

I don’t know a lot. When I was taking journalism classes for a semester in New York City in the spring of 2017, one of my professors preached you are not an expert in your field until you have served 10 years in that field. Here I am coming up on my anniversary with The Mt. Pleasant News on Aug. 3.

My limited experience as a student journalist, an intern with a startup media company in New York and from observation is that reporters are competitive. Fiercely competitive as they compete to break the news first, get the most original angle on a story, put out the news as quickly as they can.

Beyond that, however, they will lend a hand to one another in times of crisis.

Competition in the news industry ensures accuracy, strong investigative skills and overall produces higher quality journalism. Competition does not negate camaraderie among reporters.

The staff members of The Capital are grieving. And their peers are volunteering to step in to give The Capital reporters a chance to step out, breath, collect themselves and then get back to doing what they know how to do.

Purposefully, The Capital and newsrooms worldwide observed a moment of silence on July 5 at 1:33 p.m. in honor of the five killed a week after the shooting.

Editor of Capital Gazette Communications Rick Hutzell wrote in an editorial that day that he and the rest of his staff limp from one deadline to the next with reporters on loan from The Sun, The Chicago Tribune, Virginian-Pilot and Allentown Morning Call. Even NPR lent The Capital an editor and a New York Times reporter wrote alongside Capital reporters in early July.

Newsrooms across the country sent food and care packages with stress toys to the Capital’s newsroom.

Furthermore, over 370 journalists responded to a call for help from The Capital Wednesday, July 18, offering a week or more of their time. The Investigative Reporters & Editors group thanked the reporters, calling it an overwhelming response.

The world is small. A good friend of mine from college — now a reporter in New York City — interned at The Capital Gazette for a few summers. Annapolis is his home.

In an article published online at The Media Project following the shooting, he wrote, “The people at staff newspapers like The Capital don’t only care about putting together a newspaper, they care about people.”

The Capital shooting was horrific. They will spend years recovering from the trauma of it. In the aftermath, however, people were reminded that reporters at local newspapers are a part of the community too. Their people were more than their bylines or their calls for advertisements.

“We are you,” said Capital Gazette reporter Pat Furguson just days after the shooting.

We are you — reporters who want to see our communities succeed, keep their elected officials, law enforcement officers and other public entities in check, and be transparent and seek the truth.

On July 16, Capital Gazette photojournalist tweeted “First day back for me after 5 American journalists, my friends, murdered in our old newsroom. We press on.”

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