By the eeriest of coincidences, I happened to be at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Thursday afternoon, with a group of a dozen journalists from across the country, when my phone began buzzing with news of the shooting at The Capital newsroom.
How surreal to be in the shrine of our chosen profession, surrounded by artifacts and thought-provoking exhibits of the proud history of journalism – and a towering memorial to journalists killed in the line of duty, almost all of them from other countries – when the worst slaughter of American journalists in decades occurred.
Before too long, we all migrated from the exhibits to a balcony overlooking a huge TV screen in the museum lobby, which displayed CNN’s early coverage of the massacre. For me, seeing familiar faces from Maryland, on camera and on screen, was oddly comforting, even as it brought the tragedy home.
There, in the Newseum, it was hard not to think, “Journalists are murdered in strife-torn countries. This is not supposed to happen here.”
We will leave it to others, for now, to address the state of American political discourse, and the scorn now regularly heaped on journalists by powerful and influential people. And we will leave it to others to figure out what went so terribly wrong with the alleged shooter.
This was, and will remain, a human tragedy. And we mourn the passing of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters, though we did not know them, the way we would mourn the victims of any high-profile disaster. We know plenty of people who did know them, and we express our deepest sympathies.
The fact that their chosen profession matches ours makes the hurt feel much, much deeper. A newsroom in a small and beautiful and historically significant American city, where so many of my friends have worked through the years, just became a killing field. That’s really hard to take.
To every Maryland political leader, from across the political spectrum, who expressed horror and sadness about this tragedy, thank you. Thanks especially to those of you who reaffirmed your commitment to the importance of the work that journalists do. Your words were heartfelt, and they mean a lot.
And with that, we will get out of the way. I urge our readers to read the extraordinary coverage of the massacre by the reporters and editors of The Capital and its sister publication, The Baltimore Sun. Powerful, moving stuff, pulled off under unimaginable circumstances.
As journalists, we’re taught to be dispassionate observers. But how do you remain so in a situation like this?
If you’d like to help the victims of The Capital shooting and their loved ones, there is a GoFundMe page, which, as of 6 a.m. Friday, has raised very close to $60,000. Thank you.