I never met Gerald Fischman. I knew him casually, over the internet as so many relationships begin these days, as my editor for this column. Reading about him, what his colleagues have said about him, what his friends have said about him, I probably would have liked him.
As my editor, Gerald let me write what I wanted to write. If you read the columns he wrote and read columns that I wrote, you would realize that we would not agree on many issues. But he never interfered with what I wrote,
I didn’t personally know the other victims of this shooting. But as a community we all were affected by this senseless act of violence by a crazed madman with an ax to grind.
This tragedy brought out the best in us. The police who subdued the perpetrator and cleared the building to ensure the safety of all. The medics who tended to the victims and provided the best medical care they could. And the reporters, many of whom were just subjected to an act of unthinkable violence, who immediately began reporting the news when they were the news themselves. I’m honored to be a peripheral member of the staff of this paper.
It also brought out the worst of us. National media jumping to wild conclusions, either relying on faulty news reports or making stuff up as they went in order to fill the news vacuum. Hyperactive politicians and pundits, who immediately wanted to start arguing policy and assigning blame minutes after the tragedy happened. A glimpse into the vortex created when a major news event occurs.
Then there were the epithets, the death threats, the slurs that were hurled by ignorant people at The Capital and its staff in the immediate aftermath of this incident. The thought that people would act that way would make my blood boil.
The performance of the journalists at this paper in the wake of this senseless tragedy has been absolutely incredible. The importance of their work and the national reaction to it shows something that has been missing in many local markets in recent years.
Over the course of the last decade, media consolidation has been changing the face of news coverage. Ten years ago there were still a number of independent newspaper outlets that covered state and local news, particularly of the General Assembly and state politics. Though The Capital was caught up in the consolidation when it was purchased by the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Capital has never lost sight of its mission and has always aimed to provide local coverage that Baltimore and Washington based outlets can’t.
Never was that more apparent than this week.
The challenges this team faces going forward are going to be immense. The loss of colleagues, of friends, of a sense of peace, the grief that comes with it. The circle of grief isn’t really a circle, and it will come in waves for a long time. And those are just the emotional challenges.
The professional challenges will continue as well, with some feeling the urge to trend toward activism and opinion on the issues that come up when events like this occur. But what I know is that The Capital is a team of professional journalists led by a professional leadership team that is going to make sure that bias does not impact the reporting on the issues that matter most to Maryland.
Where do we go from here as a community? We’ll need to avoid finger-pointing and falling back on simple solutions. It’s easy to blame guns, to blame the judicial system, and to blame the national attitude toward the media. But it’s more complicated than that. The urge to “do something” for the sake of doing something will not end the hurt, nor will it stop something like this from happening again.
One thing we can do: be better to each other.
Brian Griffiths is editor-in-chief of RedMaryland.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BrianGriffiths.