As we go to press today, the families of five of our colleagues are planning to bury their loved ones. Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters weren’t people we knew personally — but we knew them in spirit.
They were part of a family whose members share the same passion for news as reporters, editors, photographers, correspondents, sales reps, graphic designers — all the people who make up media organizations around the world.
These men and women covered high school football games, city council meetings, crime and courts, and told stories of the people who were the fabric of the community they served. Those who survived the shooting honored the five men and women who were killed by a gunman by not skipping a publishing day, instead choosing to cover the shooting while dealing with their own grief.
The suspect in the Capital Gazette shooting had a long-standing feud with the newspaper. He sued — and lost — threatened and harassed the paper and its staff for years. It’s not unusual for readers and subjects of stories to be unhappy with coverage for one reason or another. It’s not that unusual for disgruntled readers to put their complaints in writing, file complaints with higher ups in news organizations and even pursue legal action.
What is unusual is for someone to take it to the level of allegedly planning the shooting, going so far as to barricade the back door before taking aim at the front of the building. But is it so unusual when the news is filled with shootings in every corner of the country, in small towns, in schools, in nightclubs at concerts? Is it so unusual that a man who has a beef with a newspaper would follow suit and start shooting?
Is this the new normal we are all supposed to accept?
Violence isn’t the answer in any situation. We suspect that as the investigation unfolds it will be determined the suspect has a history of mental illness of some sort and fell through the cracks. Hindsight is always 20-20 and second guessing is full of should have, could have and would haves.
We urge the public to continue to support the fourth estate, continue believing in the men and women who are part of the communities they serve as members of a news organization — from small community weekly newspapers to major network news stations. These men and women on the streets are your neighbors and friends. Let them tell the stories that preserve the present for the past and the future.
Rest in peace Rob, Gerald, John, Rebecca and Wendi.