Imagine it’s a Thursday morning. You work right outside of D.C. and the biggest story overnight was that a crucial Supreme Court justice, who was the deciding vote in some landmark cases of this country, decided to retire, sending the country into a frenzy.
You have deadlines to meet and your editor won’t get off your back because you forgot a few commas in your last article. You get to your lunch break and you finally get a moment to breathe, but it’s brief. You return to your desk where you have another deadline to meet before you leave for the day.
It’s 2:30 p.m. exactly and you are focused on tracking down an important source for a story you’ve been developing for days. It could be the biggest article of your career. Then, without warning, you hear gun shots. This is the exact thing you report on. This is the exact action you’ve wanted your entire career, but oddly enough the shots sound close. That’s because they are. You look up to see your colleagues running frantically through the newsroom. It’s you, you are now going to be the top story across the country for the next few days.
This is the exact feeling reporters for the Capital Gazette in Maryland had Thursday as a gunman opened fire and killed five employees.
As a journalist, we report on these sort of things often. Eventually, the sting of reporting on dead people gets less and less poignant, until you are able to cover almost anything and not think twice about it because it’s just your job. Journalists use their profession as a shield of protection. A shield against the heinous attacks they receive from social media — and in person. They, too, are individuals who are doing a job, a sometimes difficult one, but nonetheless a job. It begins to get difficult to use the job as a buffer when the leader of the free world often leads the attack against you.
Since declaring his candidacy for president, Donald Trump has done nothing but release relentless attacks on the media. From calling the press fake news to making fun of distinguished members and even going as far as to ban American media from certain meetings that they are accustom to attending.
A good journalist’s first obligation is not to his or her publication but to the truth. Despite what the president says, we do not make up news about him just to make him look bad, he does that just fine on his own. What we do is give the public the best most accurate information possible so they can formulate their own opinions and feelings on topics. Don’t get me wrong: there are a fair share of journalists whose integrity I, as well as others, question, but the majority of us are dedicated to the truth.
Yes, the big media outlets like CNN and Fox News do sway to the two sides of the political spectrum, and yes, they are two of the most viewed publications on the globe, but those are not the outlets we turn to for our personalized news coverage.
It’s the small town papers, like the Capital Gazette, that really drive this business. That’s where the investigative work is really seen. Those outlets are also where the best human interest stories come out of. That is where bipartisanship is truly at work. So for the president to attack the press as a whole is nothing short of disappointing but also not shocking. See, the issue here is that the president has made it seem as though negative press means it’s lies that have been made up. You’re mistaken. Negative press means somebody screwed up and a journalist cared enough about the truth and the people to find all the possible details so they could be informed.
This attack was inevitable. It has been brewing since the day “fake news” became a thing. This is the day that journalists have been dreading for the last 3 years. That one day our work won’t be able to protect us. That our diligence would still be misconstrued.
Thursday, June 28, 2018, was the day we felt that our first amendment right was truly infringed upon. Five people went to work but didn’t return home. What I do know is that the Capital Gazette is still publishing their daily paper tomorrow and the following day even in the middle of a tragedy. News never stops, even when the people reporting it are the ones most intensely affected.
Jaylin Hawkins is a broadcast senior, who was a reporter for SFNS during the fall semester and is currently SFNS’ audio engineer. Hawkins is also a writer for Mieux Magazine and serves as the host for the podcast she created, The Annex. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.