Point of No Return: Another shooting — and this hit close to home

Last week, Coastal Point journalists wrote stories about the upcoming holiday celebrations in the community, a profile about the newest member of the South Bethany Town Council and coverage of an Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. 

We profiled a local bathing suit shop, informed our readers about a utility company hoping to bring a natural gas pipeline to Millville and told the story of nine graduating seniors who received scholarships with the stipulation that they return to teach in the Indian River School District after graduating college. 

Our sports reporter wrote about the Lower Sussex Challenger League — a remarkable adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical or intellectual challenges —, a new practice facility at Cripple Creek and an Indian River Summer Volleyball Camp.

And, that’s what we did. A bunch of underpaid and overworked gluttons for punishment showed up to work each day at that little office across from Lord Baltimore Elementary School, punched the proverbial clock and made phone calls, shook hands and sat through meetings that could bore the paint off a wall more times than not. 

We didn’t have any meetings where the evil corporate publisher ordered us to write stories that could burn our community to the ground in order to “move papers,” nor did our astonishingly-handsome and brilliant editor instruct anybody to make up false narratives to benefit one side of an argument over another. 

We just... worked. We tried to write the most accurate and fair stories we could, and at the end of the day, we hoped that we helped our readers know a little more about their community in the process. We are no different than the journalists who work hard every day at the Wave, OC Today, the Sussex Post, Cape Gazette and, yes, Capital Gazette — we just care about our communities, and want to shine a light wherever there is darkness or confusion, while we try to get better at our jobs every single day.

Just like many of you.

I’m not trying to hold a pity party for my profession. We’re big boys and girls, and we know we sign up for scrutiny as soon as we start attaching our names to the stories we put together. 

We also know that many of the major news organizations, particularly of the 24/7-variety, have hooked on to one opinionated voice or another to build a strong consumer base, and that creates rancor from those who don’t share that particular point of view. We don’t like it any more than you do. Or, since I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths, let me put it this way: I don’t like it any more than you do, and I think it influences the public’s perception of journalists everywhere.

But when rancor turns to violence, or threats of violence, there is a fundamental problem.

I blame one person for the tragedy at the Capital Gazette last Thursday afternoon — Jarrod W. Davis. The alleged shooter apparently had a vendetta against the people at the Capital Gazette for years, losing a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012, and building a festering hatred over the years that ultimately erupted in a hail of shotgun blasts last week, taking five innocent lives in the process. Five lives that were simply at work, trying to make a living. Five lives who had people who loved them. Five living human beings.

Did he finally snap because of the growing discontent with the media we have seen in this nation over the past few years? Was he emboldened by the media-bashing words of our president? Did he read something in the days leading up to the attack that caused him to explode into a homicidal rage? Was last Thursday just the day he decided to do it, and everything else was just background noise?

I have no idea. And neither do you. 

What I do know is that none of the people he killed on Thursday deserved to be gunned down while they were at work. How do I know this? Because I’m not an idiot. Nobody deserves to be slaughtered while they’re contributing to society, studying in a classroom, watching a movie or dancing in a club. 

You don’t have to like my profession. You don’t have to like me. But in an age when everyone is asking for more civility, but absolutely nobody is granting any, please show us enough respect to not murder us. In fact, let’s try showing everybody enough respect not to murder them.

Journalists do not sit on some mythical pedestal. We have a job, just like the people who patrol our streets, or serve dinners, or hammer nails, or sell houses or rent umbrellas on the beach. Some of us are good at it, some of us are not. Some of us try to be fair and even with our stories, while some attempt to pander to a specific audience. Some of us — most of us, really — try really hard to be good at our jobs every day, but still make mistakes despite our best efforts.

I once edited a newspaper that advertised a “barbecue children dinner” in our calendar of events one issue. When I was a young police reporter I screwed up a story so badly that I transposed the names of the arresting officer and the bad guy. Oh, another time I really messed up, and...

But I digress.

My heart hurts for the people at the Capital Gazette, and that entire community. It should hurt us all as human beings.

By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor