Reflecting on the Capital Gazette shooting from the perspective of a journalist
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I’ve always been optimistic, but my desperation for change has driven me to the point of hopelessness.
After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, I thought there would be change. After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, I thought there would be change. After the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, I thought there would be change. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, I thought there would be change. After the Waffle House shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, and then the Santa Fe High School shooting, I thought there would be change.
I just knew that our country would have to take action after these tragedies became headlines day after day.
But I thought wrong, and Thursday, after walking in the house to hear my mom say “There’s been another shooting,” I could feel my heart sink as utter despair set in.
The shooting at the office of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland that left five journalists dead hit me hard. The reality of this tragedy still hasn’t quite sunk in.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve imagined myself as a reporter. Covering an event and then heading back to the newsroom, spending hours in the office conducting the perfect story- that’s how I’ve imagined my career.
I’ve always known that journalists aren’t just handed roses and treated with kindness. I’m only 17 and I have been insulted dozens of times due to stories that I’ve published.
But no journalist enters the field because of the fame or wealth that comes along with it. We write because we love it. There’s a certain passion that comes along with journalism- a thrill that comes along with the rush of fingers typing along the keyboard, an excitement gained when an interviewee says just the perfect quote.
We understand our nation’s need for journalism- without journalism, there is no democracy. The people lose their voice.
Yet not everybody understands that.
We are in the era of “fake news.” People are taught that it is okay to reject news stories that they dislike, often picking and choosing facts that fit their worldview.
I have attended several classes where I learned how to fact check and ensure that no false news is published. I have been accused of publishing fake news myself after writing a controversial story.
Our political leaders refer to fake news so frequently that it is engraved into people’s minds.
I fear that how media is treated in this current political environment will wreak havoc on its future and may lead to further acts of violence like the one at the Capitol Gazette.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We discussed the various dangers that journalists currently face. We talked about the brave faces who have been arrested or murdered for reporting.
Now just a week later, five more professionals are added to the long list of names who will never be able to pick up the pen again.
Since 1992, 1311 journalists have been killed while on the job. In 2017 alone, 43 journalists were killed and 262 more were arrested.
I understand that danger comes along with any job. But I wish there was a greater realization that journalists are people too. There seems to be a widening divide between members of the press and the American people.
President Donald Trump tweeted in February 2017 that “Fake News media,” referencing specifically to the New York Times, CNN and NBC, is the “enemy of the American people.”
We are not the enemy. We are allies; we are you.
And so here again, just like after the Parkland shooting, the Pulse shooting, the Las Vegas shooting and the many, many others, we mourn with you.
To Mr. Gerald Fischman, Mr. Rob Hiaasen, Mr. John McNamara, Ms. Wendi Winters and Ms. Rebecca Smith, thank you for your commitment to reporting.
I think the courageous action of the reporters at the Capital Gazette who put out a newspaper the very next day can sum it all up:
We will never stop writing.