Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

I began my most recent column lamenting that this all-Trump-all-the-time insanity we are experiencing has sucked much of the joy out of life and made it difficult to write a “normal” column. “This has become personal,” I wrote.

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”
“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Once There Was a Place …

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

(A news obit, written & filed to Facebook  on June 25, 2016).

By Jeremiah Horrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

Jeremiah Horrrigan

A desk. A phone. A computer. A place to hang your hat, or just a place to hang. It doesn’t sound very glamorous. Certainly not romantic. Until it all disappears.

I’m going to a wake tomorrow. Not a wake for a person. A wake for what most people would call an office. Those of us who worked there called it “the bureau.” It was a place where news was discovered, reported and written about. My connection to it ended a little more than a year ago. Everybody else’s connection to it — the list is long — ended on yesterday. After more than 20 years, the Ulster County bureau of the Middletown Times Herald-Record was officially shuttered. Killed off by the usual suspects — greedy owners, inept managers, the internet, the times. Dead and dying newspapers like The Record have such a rich variety of villains to blame for their demise, it hardly seems worth reporting the cause of death, it’s become so mundane.

Over its 20 years, the bureau occupied several offices across the county, all of them bare-bones, usually situated on the cheap side of town. Or even out of town. I’ve been a reporter who worked out of all the county’s bureaus, almost from the day the paper waded into the county. When I worked there, I thought of the bureau, when I thought of it at all, as a place. A place where I went to do my job. That meant sitting at a desk and working the phone and kibitzing with colleagues and writing stories and cursing editors I never saw and officials I saw too often, usually at night in drafty town halls or, less often, at some sweltering murder scene or worst of all, at a cemetery where a solitary bugler played Taps and young men wept bitter tears.

No one’s going to weep at tomorrow’s wake. We’ll drink beer and curse managers who wouldn’t dare set foot on the premises, the owner/ investors who see us as cogs in their money-making machine. We’ll toast each other and praise absent friends. And we’ll tell stories on and about each other and those friends, stories being the point of it all.

And then we’ll all go home. And once there, we’ll be alone with our thoughts and at least one of us will wonder where the time went and he’ll look for comfort in the usual direction he turns to. He’ll look to the past because he’s an old newspaperman and a sentimental fool who knows in his bones there’s no longer a place — a bureau — where what was best about newspapers can ever happen again.

Jeremiah Horrigan is an award-winning newspaper reporter, now retired, who has spent his professional life telling other people’s stories  Over the years, his freelance essays, columns and features have appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated  and the Miami Herald. These days, he tells his story in Salon, Memoir Journal, narratively.com and in several national anthologies, including Woodstock Revisited and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. He writes a bylined blog for the Huffington Post and is the author of a memoir, Fortunate Son: A Dying Father, an Angry Son and the War on the Home Front.