Editorial: Local journalism

Gerald Fischman, 61. Rob Hiaasen, 59. John McNamara, 56. Rebecca Smith, 34. Wendy Winters, 65.

The names may not be too familiar to most people in Connecticut. How they lost their lives, however, should never be forgotten.

Today, July 19, marks three weeks since these people working at the Capital Gazette offices in Annapolis, Md., were killed when a man armed with a gun and a grudge came inside the office building to hurt people. The five — four of them longtime reporters — worked to bring news and information to their communities. By all accounts, they were good at what they did and they garnered respect from the people they covered and the readers of their newspaper.

Journalists have long been the targets of ridicule and anger, though the angry people have mostly kept their vitriol to speech or a canceled subscription. With social media, the voices of anger now have a larger platform to espouse their views. To hear some critics tell it, reporters’ stories are “slanted” or “biased” in favor of one side of the political spectrum. Or they’re not being “fair” to people in lofty positions. The papers or outlets they work for are sometimes derided as “fake news” to some with loud voices, preferring to hear words that confirm their worldviews rather than to see their favorites face any level of scrutiny.

Yet local journalism plays a major role in many communities. And the same critics who often bash local papers — including this one — are often scanning the pages or hopping on the website to see what’s going on around town. Or maybe they just want to leave a comment, without their real names attached to those words.

Journalism is a challenging field. The reporters who cover their towns and cities spend hours per week calling, emailing and visiting with people, attending events and taking photos to get information and then have to sift through all of that information and put it into stories that are easy to read as well as factual. Sometimes, those printed words force government officials or agencies into action or bring to light issues that may negatively affect communities. Sometimes it’s just the news people want to hear: an election result, a sports score, a marriage, a student’s achievement.

This editorial is not a call for praise of journalists. It’s a reminder that newspapers and the men and women who work for them deserve respect and should not be targets of violence. It’s fine to write a letter to the editor to make a point or call our offices and voice your opinion. It’s far different to take up arms or any other weapon against journalists who are simply doing their jobs.