I'd posted the following to LinkedIn on June 29, 2018, the day after a man with a history of harassment and right-wing extremism gunned down five reporters and employees at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. I am still stunned.
I've been thinking about the wonderful community newspaper where I spent five years as an intern and as a professional. The accessible elevator. The open office plan. The unlocked doors. No security. No receptionist, usually. Just a big place that says "Come on in."
This was in West Virginia in the '90s. Things were a little friendlier back then, at least superficially. Some stories were hard for the community to take, but in most cases, people liked talking to us. We lived in their neighborhoods. We groused about potholes. We wiped out on the water slides at the park.
Angry people would come in sometimes, upset that we wrote about a relative or their business. Sometimes people wanted to spend hours convincing reporters to write about something that didn't warrant a write-up, even under community journalism standards. Sometimes politicians, cops or school board members loudly got into it with an editor. We all would shush and listen and snicker. And then the next week, that same person would share a tip or give a quote, because #smalltownlife.
There was harassment. Of course there was harassment. That's a story for another day, though. But the newsroom wasn't really *scary.*
This week, everything changed for a lot of papers.