Murdered for doing their job

Published 2:20 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

This wasn’t supposed to be my column topic for today, but with the tragedy that took place in Annapolis, Maryland this past Thursday, I felt the need to write this one instead.

USA Today reported that Thursday afternoon, a gunman armed with a gun and smoke grenades shot through the glass door to the Capitol Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland and opened fire on multiple employees, killing five and wounding others.

Court documents show the shooter, Jarrod Ramos, 38, filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012. However the judge presiding over the case threw it out. The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.

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The case referenced a Capitol story by a staff writer under the headline, “Jarrod wants to be your friend.” The story described a harrowing situation of a woman who was continually harassed by Ramos after he contacted her on Facebook. The woman ultimately moved to get away from the harassment and now sleeps with a gun at her side.

Newspapers across our nation value the First Amendment and the right it gives them to say what needs to be said. As it is in life, there are people who disagree with what we say. But that comes with the job.

Many times we are threatened, become the focus of protests, verbally attacked, cussed out and ridiculed across social media. For me, it’s been all of the above and then some. And yes, that also comes with the job when you stand up and voice an opinion. That we also understand.

A publisher friend of mine posed on his Facebook page, “In today’s world where the term ‘Fake News’ is carelessly used when someone typically disagrees with a factual story, I still believe my beloved profession is based on truth, accuracy and high ethical standards.” He pretty much stated how we all feel about our profession in this day and age.

The five Capitol newsroom employees that lost their lives last week went to work Thursday morning just as you and I did. They started the day doing what they love to do. And lost their lives because someone was offended and disagreed with how they did their job.

After the incident, The Capitol Gazette admirably put a paper together for the next edition on Friday, not missing a beat. Showing the world that hate cannot deter what is right.

As I write this column, although my heart is saddened by the tragedy that took place and the lost lives of five industry colleagues, I am proud of the stance newspapers take in their communities every day. I am proud of the First Amendment that allows us to do so.

I am proud of every individual working at a newspaper across our nation and for what they go through day in and day out — especially those at The Capitol Gazette, for they gave the ultimate price for upholding the First Amendment.

Here at The Port Arthur News, we send our thoughts and prayers to the families, friends and co-workers of those that lost their lives.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.