Amid Monday's hurly-burly, someone suggested online that I might report on what it was like being at the center of things.

Being at the center of things on the news desk during the Baltimore rioting was pretty much like everyone else's experience of the day: following the tweets and Facebook posts, looking at the images on television. It was my colleagues, reporters and photographers, who were out in the thick of things, risking their own safety to inform the rest of us.


Apart from the editing—the questioning, the clarifying, the updating, the coordinating—one of the tasks that fell to me was to take part in discussion of a word.

On Saturday, as we worked on the articles for Sunday's editions, we took great care to be measured. The outbreak of violence and vandalism that followed the great protest march over the death of Freddie Gray—the more shocking, coming after the profound and solemn restraint of the protesters throughout the day—plainly involved a minute fraction of the thousands who turned out. We did not want to sensationalize, to contribute to hysteria. We did not use a word that others bandied about freely.

But Monday, as the dimensions of the storm that overtook parts of the city were becoming apparent, the editor said to me that we have to have a discussion about using riot.

By then, it was not a hard choice, though it was a choice that first required thoughtful discussion. We knew that police officers had been attacked and injured as they attempted to get control of streets, that automobiles and a pharmacy had been set on fire, that businesses were being looted, that the governor was prepared to call out the National Guard. We were in the midst of rioting, and the senior editors discussing how we were going to cover these events were in agreement on the word.

RIOTS ERUPT was our front-page banner headline Tuesday morning.

Even so, we worked to keep the coverage measured and matter-of-fact. Rumors poured in, but we did not publish what we could not verify. Residents thought that the blaze that destroyed a senior housing project under construction was arson, but we specified that the Fire Department had not determined the cause. We reported that the police said they had reason to think that there might be a gang plot for further violence, and we published a denial.

As residents and business owners began to clean up the mess, and troops and police officers fanned out to guard against further disruption, reporters and photographers went out on the streets again. And I am back at the news desk, questioning, clarifying, updating, coordinating, and striving to see to it that what you read is measured, accurate, reliable.