By Sharon Dunten, Assistant Regional Director, Society of Professional Journalists- Region 3; freelance journalist based out of Atlanta, Georgia.
Was the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, a threat to the First Amendment?
Yes, it is a threat to the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. Whether it was a hate crime against a newsroom or a personal vendetta, the First Amendment was under fire when the bullets started flying in the Capital Gazette newsroom. Staff people died today. Probably many journalists. The moment this shooter stepped into the newsroom and raised his shotgun and started firing, he committed a crime against the citizens of the United States.
And the man who calls himself president, sends thoughts and prayers.
Are American newsrooms vulnerable?
Shooters who want to kill are looking for individuals or groups that are considered vulnerable. So are the newsrooms of America’s city newspapers, local TV stations and national news headquarters now the new target for carnage? And are journalists themselves becoming those vulnerable targets? Was the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, a vulnerable office in what might have been considered a secure newsroom?
In the smaller city newsrooms I have worked in the past, we had awkward security systems of buzzing people in and out with the slide of a hand button from the receptions desk. There weren’t any locks or windows, no security walls, and half the time the back door was open. Yes, the news staff had to use their security cards or code to enter into a building, but there was always a door ajar to bring in packages or just to get a breeze through a warm newsroom.
American newsrooms, large and small, are probably going to become vaults where journalists will work to produce the news. Security will be re-evaluated, updated and guards hired. Of course, these elements already exist in many American newsrooms.
Or maybe local and national politicians will suggest that newsrooms and journalists start carrying guns.
Journalists are working despite the shooting in their newsroom
And yet, the Capital Gazette journalists and editors are still working even though their colleagues were killed and their newsroom is a crime scene. It hasn’t stopped them. No matter what happens against the press and the First Amendment, American journalism will prevail because the American people want to know the truth and be informed on what going on in their communities. The propaganda that impersonates legitimate news will fall when the American people get sick of it. They will eventually rise against it.
In the era of “the press (media) is the enemy of the state,” thanks to Trump, journalists have been demonized and called “fake.” Journalists haven’t been shaking in their boots. They just keep working to produce the news. The backlash against the press might be escalating because the American press will not be controlled no matter how many business people try to buy news organizations.
No matter if this shooter was out for revenge or against journalists in general, the McCarthyism of the American media has been identified. Legitimate journalists are not going anywhere. The Capital Gazette will have a newspaper available for its readers tomorrow morning.
– Sharon Dunten is editor of SizingUpTheSouth.com and is the SPJ Region 3 Assistant Regional Director. She is a freelance journalist/photojournalist at Dunten Media Services LLC. firstname.lastname@example.org