Column: Thursday shooting in Annapolis hits close to home


What a weird morning.

In the wake of circumstances most of us will never experience, the staff at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, put out a newspaper Friday morning.

It’s a proud day for the business of newspaper journalism.

It comes on the heels of one of the most dreadful days in the history of local news media.

If you don’t know, a man opened fire on workers at the Gazette on Thursday.

Five members of the Gazette newsroom are dead … for no logical reason.

That shooting hits pretty close to home.

The alleged shooter, Jarrod W. Ramos, reportedly had a long-running feud with the newspaper. He had sued them twice based on articles or news reports about him.

Reportedly, the lawsuits never made it to the inside of a courtroom, as they were dismissed by judges.

Still, Ramos’ anger apparently continued to grow. There were allegedly more than 100 threats against the newspaper posted on social media.

What happened is senseless.

Ramos reportedly targeted workers at the Gazette. His intent was to kill.

Families are grieving today.

Reporters and others who work in the media are grieving today.

It makes no sense. In fact the world seems to make less and less sense every day.

Still, in the midst of all their grief, staff at the Capital Gazette did Thursday night what they were supposed to do.

They put out a newspaper.

They had every reason not to do their job.

They did it anyway.

I was going to write that no one would blame those at the Capital Gazette if there had been no print edition on Friday. But I’d be wrong. I’m certain many in Annapolis and elsewhere would have scolded them for not doing their job.

That’s a sad fact of life.

But these guys put out a newspaper on Friday.

If they hadn’t, the madman who opened fire in their newsroom, would have — in some small way — won.

I too am grieving today. I watched as the national media covered the shooting in Maryland.

I’m not sure how I felt.

I felt queasy. I think I was in shock. I shed some tears. I got angry.

Today, I’m still feeling those emotions.

I’m also proud of the staff at the Capital Gazette.

I’m also confused, and mad.

I’m not frightened. Maybe I should be.

I like to think that if I were the editor or publisher of of the Gazette, I too would have made the decision to put out a newspaper the day after five friends, family members, co-workers were murdered.

In fact, I’m certain I would have done the same.

But tomorrow? Or next week?

I think if I worked in that newsroom, I might just walk away.

There is a lot of anger among newspaper employees these days.

Nothing in the world is a sure thing. Well almost nothing. In the world of newspapers, cuts, closures, down-sizing, consolidations and sales have become common-place.

In the newspaper business, workers no longer wonder if.

They wonder when, and will it be me?

I’ve been in the newspaper business close to 40 years.

It’s been a wild ride.

I started working in Galion when Dave Lace was the editor. I did some part-time reporting on sports. I couple years later I was hired on full-time as a sports reporter. This was maybe 1982-83. At that time, the Inquirer had an editor, an assistant editor, a sport editor and six or seven full-time reporters.

We had a full-time photographer, three receptionists, a publisher, a business manager, a person in charge of production, a circulation manager, three full-timers in the print and production rooms who printed our paper and numerous other publications. We also had a full-time sales department and at least two who spent their day designing and working on ad copy.

It was a fun place to work.

In the world of media, reporters are supposed to report the facts … period.

Opinions should be clearly marked or placed on an opinion page.

If we are doing it right, when we are reporting on controversial subjects, half the readers will love what we write, the other half will hate it.

It sounds strange, but I guess that’s what I strive for. If I’m doing things right, half the readers of my story should be mad at me.

It’s a weird way to go through life.

Hopefully, readers understand what my job is: to report the facts and keep my opinion out of it.

It’s rare that I go to public events for fun anymore. Inevitably, someone will make a nasty, or side comment about something I wrote or another reporter wrote. It could be something from 20 or 30 years ago.

This business has taken a lot of fun out of my life. And I know I’m not along in that regard.

Lots of long-time newspaper reporters and editors are angry and suffer from depression. We eat too much, we drink too much and in my case, I spend too much time alone.

Those are not healthy traits.

Over the years, on too many occasaions to count, I’ve been berated by angry readers in person and on the phone, often by people I once considered friends, or at least acquaintances.

I’ve only talked to police about one of those threats, because I know that most who berate reporters and editors are just blowing off steam. And that’s OK.

We shouldn’t take things personally, but we do. Or I do. And it hurts. It’s depressing.

Unfortunately, I have a pretty good memory. Maybe too good. I can forgive, but I don’t forget. For that reason some of my relationships and friendships have changed.

Still, I never really worried about being targeted by an irate reader with a rifle. I have never been scared to come to work. Thirty years ago, the thought of someone targeting my place of business with a weapon never would have entered my mind.

But times have changed.

School shootings and work-place shootings are happen so often they’re no longer shocking.

Thursday’s rampage in Maryland hit too close to home.

I’m not going to change who I am or the way I operate.

I still enjoy having the door to my office open to those walking in uptown Galion. I enjoy the noise, and it doesn’t bother me if someone sees my open door and stops in and says hi.

But I don’t know how long I will keep doing this.

Maybe it’s not safe to keep my door open to everyone.

I don’t know.

I just don’t know anymore.

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Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer

 

 

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at rkent@aimmediamidwest.com with comments or story ideas.