An attack on its office that led to the slaying of five staff members was not enough to keep the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, from publishing its next day’s edition Friday.
The staff’s response to the tragedy represented the best of American journalism. It was an honor to their colleagues who were killed: deputy editor Rob Hiaasen, opinion page editor Gerald Fischman, sales assistant Rebecca Smith, special projects editor Wendi Winters and reporter John McNamara. It was a commendable show of dedication to their mission as journalists – report on the matters that affect their communities every day.
This newspaper shares that mission. We mourn the loss of the five people killed and salute the staff of the Capital Gazette for their perseverance, with the hope that those who have survived this tragedy will get the support and care they need.
What appears clear is that the Capital Gazette was targeted for doing what newspapers do – telling important local stories. In 2011, a Capital Gazette columnist had told the story of the shooter’s online harassment of a local woman – how his actions had caused his victim distress and led to a criminal conviction against him.
The shooter sued the newspaper; the suit was dismissed because he failed to understand that in America, a news outlet can not be punished for printing facts – even facts some would prefer not be printed.
The Capital Gazette showed its community the shooter’s malevolent, cruel side. The shooter could not stand it. In attacking the newspaper and killing five innocent people Thursday, he revealed himself to be not only a menace but a monster.
His actions were another example of an attack on an institution of American life by a uniquely American sort of criminal: the mass shooter.
The scourge of mass shootings repeatedly has struck our public schools and college campuses, as well as military bases, Navy shipyards, banquet halls, concerts and any other place people gather. The shooters have used an array of weapons, from assault-style rifles to handguns and shotguns.
Newspapers serve an essential function in our society, and many reporters in the business long enough have had people threaten or try to intimidate them, either electronically or in person. The staff of the Capital showed that they would not be silenced, even by overt violence, the same way that other institutions have carried on in defiance after tragedies.
Our society has a problem. It is one that leaders from the national level to the local level must work together to address, so that the next attack, the next tragedy, can be prevented.
Ensuring public safety is not a political issue – it is essential for our country’s future.