Before Thursday, people knew Annapolis for crabcakes, for the Naval Academy and maybe for Wedding Crashers. It’s a sleepy little sailing town, but it’s one that I call home. A few days ago it was the site of unspeakable violence. The gunman targeted our local paper, the Capital Gazette. He took issue with the fact that the paper had covered the crimes he committed – criminally harassing a woman. I will not mention his name. He is not the story. Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters and the paper they contributed to are the story.
In high school, I job shadowed a family friend who worked at The Capital and eventually worked on our school newspaper. A keen interest in the news and the people who make me has guided me. The work I do isn’t journalism, but its journalism adjacent. Through my PR career I’ve met some impressive and incredibly smart reporters. They’re relentless (in a good way) in pursuing their stories. Early meetings wading through complex data with scientists, late afternoons in 90 degree heat for a video shoot – they were there to get the job done. They were there to help inform their audience, just like the reporters at the Capital Gazette.
Local news reporters don’t take the job to seek glory or to advance an agenda; they take the job to serve their communities. These are the people who are covering local high schools, like Wendi Winters, who covered mine. She wrote the Teen of the Week column to showcase talented and smart high schoolers. Local news reporters are the ones most embedded in their communities; they are invested in these stories. They’re the ones asking about taxes and new developments so you don’t have to. So to see them become victims of hate-fueled violence is truly heartbreaking. These five people served their neighborhoods with compassionate and thoughtful writing. They were an indelible part of the community I call home. They leave behind partners and children.
Now, more than ever, we need a strong and free press. We need people like Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. We need the people chasing down the small, local stories just as badly as we need the ones chasing down the big ones. We shouldn’t have to deploy the NYPD to the doors of the New York Times, as they did on Thursday. News and knowledge is power. It shines light into darkness; it shines light on those whose good work might otherwise go unnoticed. The Capital Gazette did that. They wrote stories about snow days and gave them just as much significance as they did everything else. The press is not, as some have said, the enemy of the people. It is an ally of the people by speaking truth to power and unveiling what should not be hidden. Support your local paper. Support good journalism.
Don’t forget, they put out the damn paper the next day.