Sunday, July 01, 2018

Annapolis Capital Gazette Journalist Killing Editorial

By Susan Robens-Brannon
June 30, 2018

Ode to five fine journalists

I am deeply saddened for the five lives lost at the newsroom Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Md. These lives are, Gerald Fischman, 61, Rob Hiaasen, 59, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith 34, and Wendi Winters, 65.
As a reporter for a small-town print newspaper and this shooting hit close to home. Most small-town reporters do not get wealthy from our work, we do it because it is our passion. It is our passion to inform the community about what is going on, the new business, the possible new development in town, the 100-year-old birthday celebration and music in the streets. We report on local crime, arrests and possible corruption in the government. 
The small-town newspaper is not fake-news, it is as close as you can get to real news, we work under high ethical guidelines and double-check our facts. We work long hours and fight for print news hoping that it will not die. Where else can you get local news in one place?
The paper did its job, they reported on a person, Jarrod Ramos, with evidence of harassing women over social media, in court he pleaded guilty. Reporting on this, is not a crime, it is the news. We report on sex crimes all of the time, we report on drug arrests, and we report on murders. These facts are not defamation, but admitted, found guilty or brought into charge and public information. We report on these issues all of the time, it is normal and responsible.
It is said that Ramos made threats in 2013, a detective investigated the threats and the paper decided not to pursue criminal charges because it may exacerbate the situation. Ramos then took the issue to court and lost his round of appeals in 2016, claiming that he had been wronged by the paper. From 2011 to early 2016, Ramos waged war through social media, he tweeted 149 times at the Gazette’s official account, he mentioned the columnists Eric Hartley 201 times and a dozen named the newspaper’s former editor, Thomas Marquardt. Ramos mentioned that he would enjoy if the paper would cease publication, but nicer if both Hartley and Marquardt cease breathing in 2015.
Could the paper had done something different to prevent this brutal and hateful killing of its employees? Would the Capital Gazette have paid for an office security guard? What are the boundaries before taking preventative action as a reporter? I know that my newspaper would not spend the extra money on a security guard, even if threats continued for years. The small-town paper is working hard to stay afloat, or at least that is what they tell us. That is another story.
I can only be reminded of a time when I was reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and received death threats. I took them seriously. I changed my publication name and used a pseudo name, kept my whereabouts unknown by changing my IP address often. It seemed to have worked, I am alive. One time, I even moved when the threats increased in both demeanor and became daily.
The problem is that it is difficult to know where to draw the line for safety as journalist. Do we just brush it off and say they will get over it as we think most people would? In America, we might get jailed for reporting on a protest, but we normally do not concern ourselves with getting shot. 
The mainstream news will make this all about gun control, once again. They take any gun event and blow it out of proportion, ignoring the fact that our moral fiber has been disintegrating for years. It is the fiber of our society that we should be concerned about, not gun control. 
It is the increased stress that Americans are under, and the 1% that control the 99% causing economic inequity, it is the non-livable wages, lack of time off, lack of medical benefits and the high cost of medicine causing hard working Americans to sell their homes when things go wrong to pay the medical bills. It is the fear of our lives being compromised, losing our jobs, working more hours for less pay and isolation due to social media and television. It is these things that are causing more than 24 percent of American who live under extreme stress. Eight in 10 American’s suffer from stress. Seven people every 2 seconds die from stress every year worldwide, that is 110 million people and that was 2013 data. This number of deaths more than that from guns.
Ramos was stressed. Stress leads to all kinds of negative physical symptoms, panic attacks, anxiety, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, fears, phobias, ulcers, overeating, smoking, alcohol and drug use. Ramos lost it. Stress causes anxiety, and anxiety can lead to violence and aggressive behavior in some people. Ramos did a bad thing, he messed up and as a result lost his job. He felt bullied because although he pleaded guilty, he did not take responsibility for what he did. He felt powerless. 
The paper missed the signs. The continual threats and harassment of the paper and the lashing out reflected that Ramos was at a breaking point. He was both angry and stressed and that is a toxic combination. Again, I say it is not the gun, it is the person behind the gun that is the concern. We in the journalist world has lost comrades due to the moth holes in the moral tapestry that once held our country together. I pray for their families, I pray for their loved ones, I pray for those who are still alive at the paper and I pray for America.