Capital Gazette Shooting 'Complete Gut Punch To Journalists,' NPR Media Correspondent Says
A shooting in the newsroom of The Capital Gazette in Annapolis on Thursday left five people dead and several more seriously injured. It’s also reignited conversation about recent political attacks on journalists and the media.
The shooting is “a complete gut punch to journalists,” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says. One of the victims, Rob Hiaasen, was a colleague of Folkenflik’s for several years at The Baltimore Sun.
“Papers like Capital — understaffed, underpaid — they did their best, they worked really hard, they told important stories,” Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson of his experience working in the region. “I got to be honest, it’s a very hard story for me.”
On shooting victim Rob Hiaasen
“Rob Hiaasen sat next to me, a few desks from me, I should say, for a number of years. He was this big looming guy who couldn’t have been more ebullient, always with a quick quip, very funny, but yet interested in teasing out the humanity in stories and in people. And over the years, [he] really emerged as a mentor to not even just his younger colleagues — though that was certainly the case — but to other colleagues, where he wanted to engage and just question, why did we make the choices we did? Was there another way to do it, were there things we were overlooking? And really a thoughtful, thoughtful and yet hilarious guy. I described him last night as a Labrador. He just was this bounding figure in the newsroom, and I just think about his wife Maria and his daughters. He’ll be missed very much.”
On increased security at many newsrooms following the shooting
“I think news organizations have been thinking about security. One of the untold stories, not emphasized publicly, is the degree to which reporters and newsroom leaders face harassment on a not-infrequent basis, on the virtue of the fact that they’re publishing things that may upset people, that may be about people they may take issue with — certainly this shooter is said to have filed a suit and really harassed journalists there for many years. But yes, there were security guards and police officers fanning out to newsrooms — and not just in central Maryland — yesterday as a result of this, because of the concerns of copycat, and because of the concerns about the nature of rhetoric against journalists.
“Let’s acknowledge, as we have had to, there have been shootings at numerous schools, … in Aurora, Colorado, at a movie theater, the Orlando Pulse nightclub. But there is a current conversation happening about the media that is not only antagonistic to the coverage that we provide as journalists, but to the journalists as people, and I think it comes often in the last couple of years from the top, from the president. And while there’s no way in which one can at this time show there is any evidence of any direct correlation — I think we should underscore that very clearly — I think it is a problematic element right now, the way in which the president speaks.”
On rhetoric targeting journalists
“Let’s talk a little bit about President Trump and candidate Trump’s rhetoric. ‘Enemy of the people’ is suggesting that journalists are traitors. What we do know that he’s doing from talking to news executives at major news organizations here and elsewhere, and human rights activists, is he’s providing cover for authoritarian figures like [President Rodrigo] Duterte in the Philippines, the leader of Turkey [Recep Tayyip Erdogan], the Putin regime in Russia, to act at times with impunity against journalists. The United States is not able convincingly to act as a spokesman for freedom of expression and the human rights of journalists serving on behalf of informing the people who live in their countries when you have rhetoric from the top accusing journalists of being among the most serious problems that America has, and of being enemies of the people, and that is rhetoric that the president owns.
“So while there is no evidence — I want to underscore again — to connect what the president has said with what occurred in Annapolis, this is a moment where I think people need to think really seriously about the ways in which they rhetorically target journalists who are just going about, by and large, the best they can to help people make sense of the communities and the world in which they live.”
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