We lock our doors when there’s only one person in the office. We lock them when we’re working at night.
There’ve been times when we’ve asked local law enforcement to keep an eye on our office and our employees. We’ve been screamed at on the telephone and had hateful postings on the online and social media versions of our stories. And, of course, we’ve been threatened with lawsuits and sued over our reporting.
Let that all sink in.
We’re a 17,000-circulation, monthly newspaper. We dedicate as much newsprint to features and photos as we do to news reporting. We write obituaries and give a lot of space to monthly calendar listings. We seldom cover crime or courts.
So, as reports from the murderous attack at the Capital Gazette in Maryland unfolded, we were sickened but not completely surprised. There are a lot of angry people out there — even in a community as beautiful and privileged as ours. Even in a city as lovely as Annapolis.
One of the five newspaper employees killed in the attack was a former co-worker of mine. A beautiful and thoughtful writer. A man who loved his family and his profession. A good man.
The last I spoke with Rob Hiaasen was a few years ago. He was curious about the origins and success of our little paper. We talked about community journalism and why it’s become increasingly important in an America where a journalist’s value is often measured in retweets and celebrity. We agreed that every community, no matter its size, is filled with interesting stories that should be told.
If Americans learn anything from the senseless slaughter of professionals just doing their jobs, maybe it will be about the dedication under-paid and over-worked newspaper people feel toward the communities they live and work in. And maybe this will shine a light on our need as a society to move past divisive hyperbole and get a grip on our anger.
I’m not naive enough to believe we’ll ever leave our doors unlocked at night, but we’ll still be here covering the news of our community. Now more than ever.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor