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Journalists are patriots

MEDIUM, 06 / 28 / 2018

Journalists are patriots.

I don’t write much after these shootings occur. Like you, all of them just make me sick. So sad. So damn sad.

But today’s mass murder didn’t make me sad. It made me angry. I could feel it in my blood.

I attended a political event tonight where interesting speakers talked about interesting things. Yet mostly I was thinking of those journalists who died at the Capital Gazette. In an instant. In a flash. Infuriating.

I’m pretty sure this visceral reaction I’m feeling comes from two places.

First, I have so many friends who are journalists. Print. Television. Radio. And for seven years, once upon a time, I reported the news on TV. I loved it. I loved my colleagues. Reporters, producers, editors, news directors. Great people who had a pure joy in disseminating information to fellow Americans.

I criticize local news plenty. But deep down, I know the value of it. And there are a lot of people who do it every day, best they can, and most of them aren’t making a fortune. It’s just who they are.

As the Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said tonight:

“The Capital newspaper is the newspaper that covers the local issues. The journalists who work for this newspaper don’t make a lot of money, but they love what they do.”

Second, for the last three years we’ve heard an unprecedented assault on American journalism from an American president. Unprecedented.

Do reporters always cover the news in a neutral fashion? Of course not. They are human beings. And I see them going too far when it comes to this president. Frequently.

But there is no excuse for any president — overseeing a country that intentionally delineated the freedom of the press as the FIRST Amendment — to attack American citizens who are just doing their jobs. Important jobs.

Without journalists, this country would not have known about countless scandals and acts of malfeasance committed by the publicly elected officials that we pay. That’s the WHOLE POINT of the First Amendment.

Did this President’s behavior and labeling journalists “the enemy of the American people” have a direct impact on the motivation of today’s murderer? Maybe. An indirect impact? Maybe.

But either way, I’m angry about the way journalists are being treated in this country. Especially by our most powerful citizen. It is just plain awful.

A lot of local news journalists don’t get a lot of thank you’s. Not that this is the reason they go to work. But it’s nice to hear every once in a while. The job is harder than lots of folks may realize.

Tonight, right now, the staff at the Capital Gazette is still on the clock. Covering the very story that crushed all of their hearts today. They’ll never be the same. Yet they press on. It is what they do.

So if you meet a journalist, and the mood strikes you, tell ’em “thank you.” They are still the watchdogs in our society. And I don’t believe any president is going to stop that.