Thursday marked a devastating day for American journalism.
Five people were killed following a newsroom shooting in Maryland. The Capitol Gazette in Annapolis lost five members of its staff as the rest of the newsroom reported on the mass murder of their friends and colleagues.
Annapolis authorities are suggesting the entire newspaper was “targeted.” In honor of all fallen journalists, I won’t speculate on the motive of the shooter until all facts are known. However, this incident has sparked conversations on the relationship between press and public. There is a disturbing tone in today’s discourse that must be addressed.
Distrusting the media and arbitrarily throwing out terms like “fake news” has become the conspiracy zeitgeist of this era. In a lot of ways, the public is totally vindicated in being wary toward news organizations. As we try to navigate through an unlimited stream of information available at the swipe of a push notification, we are inevitably led toward an open door of misinformation.
Bearing the brunt of this frustration is part of the job for journalists. We are all too familiar with the nastygrams that accumulate in our inboxes. We take it with a grain of salt because we know it is part of the job.
What should not be acceptable however is when the insults turn into threats.
In an Associated Press article published Friday, Salon politics writer Paul Sexton talks about getting a phone call where someone described how they would like to murder and dismember him.
Michelle Ferrier, a former columnist in Daytona Beach, Florida, said she has often received threats in her inbox, according to the article.
Journalists aren’t the only targets in this violent regression. Even at a local level, I’ve seen written and verbal attacks on public servants from citizens. Some on social media have even suggested hanging, or tarring and feathering members of Cottonwood City Council for voting in favor of a sales tax increase.
Anger is understandable. Violence should be abhorred.
Careers that involve public service -- whether it be reporting, teaching, law enforcement, etc. -- are generally not the most lucrative. Being a city council member also doesn’t pay the bills and most members have day jobs. We can’t assume that everyone’s motives are always altruistic but at the end of the day, if the hours are long and the pay isn’t great, you’re either a masochist or really just trying to do the right thing. Maybe both.
Reporters, city council members, teachers and police aren’t the enemy. They are members of the public. They are your next-door neighbor. You might even see them at the checkout line at Fry’s or Walmart. Most of all, they are human beings.
When we wage a war on our public servants, we wage a war on ourselves. We need to be better than this.
Kelcie Grega is the associate editor of Verde Valley Newspapers, Inc.