When faced with evil, the noble get to work

by Shauna McVey

When I got the June 28 news that an active shooter was in a newsroom less than 100 miles from my day job, my heart sank and my head filled with questions. I think this was the reaction of many of my fellow journalists in Delaware. Did I know anyone in that newsroom? Did I go to college with any of them? What great minds were lost? Were my friends in their Delaware newsrooms safe? Were they targets?

The journalist mind is a curious mind. We always have questions. We always want answers. Factual answers.

I wondered if the shooter was motivated by the recent increase of anger toward “the media,” perpetuated from our nation’s highest office all the way down to social networking sites. So many people misunderstand this industry. Before the motive was known, police were sent to the NY Times and the LA Times as a precaution. While this newsroom tragedy was one man’s personal vendetta against a newspaper he felt wronged him, journalists around the world felt fear along with horror. Journalists in their search for the truth often anger those who are the subjects of their writing.

I grew up in Middletown. And after college and a short stint at the Delaware State News, I became a reporter for the Middletown Transcript. A dream job at age 22. I wrote about a lot of newsworthy people, some of whom were my hometown friends. When I was promoted to managing editor, I held the same credo when it came to writing about those I knew: I won’t not write about someone just because I know them personally. Several times I was asked by people I know not to run news of arrests, and I had to inform them that I could not be biased. Despite endless accusations to the opposite, the overwhelming majority of journalists write unbiasedly. We are trained to think objectively. It’s our job to report the facts, no matter how hard that job often is to do.

I didn’t know The Capital victims, but my sports editor from my Transcript days worked with four of them in that newsroom.

One headline from The Capital the day after the shooting gets to the heart of every journalist I know: “ ‘I don't know what else to do’: Grieving Capital Gazette journalists cover the massacre of their own newsroom.”

Heartbreaking.

When I arrived home from work after the shooting, I searched for updates. The number of fatalities. The names of the victims. Their roles with the paper. The shooter’s motive. And then I reached out to some of my closest fellow journalists to tell them I loved them. One of my best friends, who I will always call “My reporter” even though we haven’t worked in a newsroom together since 2010, was equally saddened. The following day one of my former editors called me to say the same. One by one my journalist friends spoke out on social media about how saddened they were by this loss of life and how angry we are that our beloved industry is constantly under attack. Journalism is a family, forged in intense conversations about words and punctuation, late nights spent writing, editing and designing pages, attempts to break a story before a competitor/friend does, and devastating layoffs that began about 10 years ago. Journalism is a family forged in newsrooms.

I left full-time journalism more than seven years ago and have missed it ever since. But, like many of my fellow journalists, it has become hard to make a living working for local news outlets. Ten years ago we watched as our numbers were cut drastically due to falling ad revenue during the Great Recession. Many found other jobs away from the news. Many work in communications. Many work in other industries. In a state as small as ours, if I haven’t worked with a journalist in Delaware, one of my friends has. As such, we are one, big, multi-news-outlet family.

Ten years after the worst of the layoffs began, we now have to watch as our beloved industry is attacked, repeatedly, by those who do not understand what journalism is. They don’t understand how reporting works. They don’t understand how incredibly important the media is to protecting the public’s interest, unveiling the truth and bringing facts to light. They don’t understand what would happen if journalists did not exist.

In June, two of my favorite reporters were married in a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by a guest list of Delaware’s finest journalists and officiated by the publisher of the Cape Gazette. He laced the ceremony with quotes about writing and even gave a shout out to the First Amendment. That was met by many cheers from the guests. He called journalism a noble profession. My heart sang that day. It’s heavy now, but I hope the devastation of the Cape Gazette’s newsroom can spur conversation about the importance of journalism in our society. I hope it can soften some hearts toward this profession. I hope it can show those who have never worked in a newsroom just how hard journalists work at their craft, just how intelligent they are, and just how much they care.  

I don’t write much hard-hitting news. My roles at a weekly community paper didn’t often call for it, and now I can’t with my day job. There are plenty other journalists who cover what needs to be covered. As I’ve grown into my 30s I have tried to add positivity to the world around me. My goal as a local journalist is to cover the stories that aren’t told as often about those who do good in our community. I hope to bring a little more light to a sometimes seemingly dark world in my new role with Middletown Radio. And I will try to remember that when faced with evil, the noble get to work.

In memory of Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith. May they rest in peace.

 

 

Annapolis area artist Aaron Yealdhall created the image above to support The Capital Gazette and freedom of the press. All proceeds from sales of this “Press On” shirts, stickers, bags and other merchandise will benefit The Capital Gazette Families Fund. To make a purchase, go to www.facebook.com/pressonannapolis.