By Scott Buttram
TRUSSVILLE –I feel like I need to address the mass murder at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis on Thursday. While it is indisputable that journalism in general has been politicized of late, what happened yesterday was not political. Not in any way, shape, or form.
It is my great fear that the politicization of yesterday’s murders will overshadow the reality that the accused killer could have come from the readership of any local newspaper in America.
We deal with people displaying irrational anger and making threats toward us and our newspapers on an all too regular basis. It is not at all uncommon.
It’s happened at the Tribune and I’ve seen it happen to colleagues at other local newspapers.
While the event in Annapolis was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. journalistic history, it is not the first time a journalist has been killed for doing their job. Not by a long shot.
Please try to remember that newspapers and other media outlets aren’t nameless, faceless entities.
We’re your neighbors and, hopefully, your friends. Our spouses work with your spouses, shop at the same grocery stores and attend the same church and school functions. Our kids sit next to your kids in school and play on the same ball teams.
We have pretty thick skin. We can take criticism. We’re open to rational discussion and and differing views. We’re happy to correct any mistake we may make.
It’s okay to treat us like human beings and we’ll treat you that way, too.
If it were up to me, we’d only report good news.
It’s an awesome feeling to share the story of someone’s success. It’s a blast to report on someone fulfilling their dream with a new business opening. I love those stories.
But it’s also our responsibility to report on crime in our communities and keep our readers aware. Those stories are often followed by the great job law enforcement does to prevent and solve those crimes in an amazing effort to keep us safe.
The public has a right to know all of that.
It’s our job to report on city government and school board meetings. Trust me, there aren’t many people who would choose to sit through council workshops and BOE meetings unless they had to.
Contrary to popular belief, drinks and hors d’oeuvres aren’t served and the meetings aren’t all that much fun.
But would you know about the decisions being made that impact your daily life and how your tax dollars are being spent if we weren’t there to report?
Because we are there for all of those meetings, because we are often among the very few that follow these stories from beginning to end for years, it sometimes falls on us to write opinion pieces. It’s incumbent upon us to clearly separate commentary from reporting. That’s why we state commentary or op-ed at the top of a column.
The point it this. We’re just trying to do our job to the best of our ability.
I can’t speak for every newspaper or media outlet, but at The Trussville Tribune we recognize that we are afforded specific freedoms under the U.S. Constitution. We also recognize that with every freedom comes responsibility.
And, yes, I understand that some media outlets don’t seem to comprehend that, but that is a different issue for a different day. It was not a factor in Annapolis yesterday.
We do our doggone best to balance all of these things and tell the stories of our communities – the good and the bad – to the best of our ability.
Please don’t kill us.