Just hours after five people were killed in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, the Gazette put out a statement: “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
They made good on their promise. The next morning, the Gazette published.
They included a blank editorial page with a dedication to the victims: “Today, we are speechless,” they wrote. “This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office. Tomorrow this Capital page will return to its steady purpose of offering readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”
Despite offering his condolences in the immediate aftermath, Trump called 75 percent of media “downright dishonest” at a rally in Montana one week later.
“I see the way they write,” Trump said, pointing at the news crews covering the rally. “They’re so damn dishonest. They’re fake. They make the sources up. They are really bad people.”
Seven days. This was just seven days after a gunman opened fire against the Gazette.
Just seven days after Trump expressed his condolences to the victims and their families.
Just seven days after he said, “Journalists should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”
The attack on Capital Gazette was not surprising. News of any mass shooting is no longer surprising. In 2018, we’re averaging one school shooting a week. As of June 28, there have been 154 mass shooting incidents this year.
In 2016, when 49 people were killed in Orlando, the National Rifle Association fought back against suggestions of limiting access to firearms. Instead, they said expanding our gun arsenal would help protect us.
And there’s good reason for the NRA to take this stance. After the Parkland shooting in February, the NRA recorded its highest monthly contribution total since 2000. Their campaign collected $2.4 million in March.
The NRA doesn’t want to stop mass shootings because the shootings are good for business.
In May, the NRA finally took action about mass shootings. Did they call for legislation to ban bump stocks? Did they call for stricter background checks and mental health screens?
No. The NRA wants to pass legislation to block the media from reporting on mass shootings. NRA TV host Collins Noir said media coverage is to blame for increasing mass shootings.
“It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common-sense limitations on our mainstream media’s ability to report on these school shootings,” Noir said.
Noir joins a growing body of NRA spokespeople and politicians demonizing the press.
In a tweet shortly after the shooting, the Gazette’s news editor, Jimmy DeButts, tweeted that he was heartbroken.
“Reporters and editors give all they have every day,” DeButts tweeted. “There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays. We keep doing more with less. We are there in times of tragedy. We try to expose corruption. We put our all into finding the truth.”
Most small-town newspapers are desperately underfunded. Journalists work for a fraction of the pay that reporters for big-name companies like CNN and NBC do. But they have the same mission: journalists want to tell the truth.
And most newspapers aren’t covering national news. Most are just like us at The Signpost: covering community plays, local events and making quiet headlines. Trump will never attack us specifically because he will never know us. We will continue to write about our community even as we are lumped into a category that is apparently consumed by liars.
The Capital Gazette didn’t let a deadly attack on their paper stop their coverage. The media is more important now than ever before.
If it were up to Trump’s administration and the NRA, media coverage on mass shootings would be limited. Trump TV, a new series dedicated to praising our president, would lull us to sleep. We would never hear criticisms on our president or his administration.
Last month, after a school shooting took place in Texas, Trump promised his administration would take action to protect students.
In a press event held at the White House, Trump said his administration would do everything in their power to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
Of course, he offered his thoughts and prayers.
But he’s promised this exact thing before. After the shooting in Parkland, Trump met with students and promised tougher background checks and mental health screens for gun buyers.
That was in February. Take a guess what background checks or mental health screens have gone into place since then.
If you guessed zero, you’re right.
In fact, we’ve taken steps backward. In February, Trump overturned an Obama administration gun regulation that prevented certain individuals with mental health conditions from buying guns.
If we rely on this administration to protect us, we’ll be waiting forever. Trump’s previous solutions to stop mass shootings include arming teachers and deferring to Betsy DeVos, our Education Secretary who believes that substantive policy won’t do anything to make schools safer.
More sensical options, such as banning bump stocks and other accessories that make semi-automatic weapons automatic, seem to elude our lawmakers.
The NRA is quiet.
Parkland students’ calls for gun control are ignored.
The president gives his thoughts and prayers.
And next week, we’ll begin this process all over again.
But we’ll be here to write about it. The Capital Gazette will put out a damn paper. And the news crews in Montana will shuffle off to their next story because even if the president just called them downright dishonest, they have another story due in the morning.