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July 3, 2018

A Capital Newspaper

Harry M. Covert

As bulletins flashed five days ago that an active shooter was shot-gunning The Annapolis Capital newsroom, my heart sank, along with others who have enjoyed the excitement of deadline writing.

 

Years before modern technology erased the constant clacking of typewriters and teletypes, newsrooms were thrilling. They still are, of course. Plus, computer security was unheard of in daily, weekly and other public prints. Thankfully, things have changed.

 

Within 60 seconds or less, police were on the scene, and the shooter was nabbed. Tragically five newspaper pros died. Other staffers fortunately hid under their desks. They heard the shooter reload. I can’t imagine the fear those newsroomers experienced. No one in or out of newspapers should ever have to endure such horror.

 

Newspaper women and men, young and old alike, know the thrill of newsrooms. The feeling never leaves, and it’s different from broadcasters.

 

Despite the awful events at the Capital, newspapers have always faced written and verbal threats from readers and story subjects. The murderer in Annapolis has had disputes with the Maryland paper. Let’s not accord him any words that designate him as mentally ill. No pun intended, he should be tried for capital murders – the death penalty.

 

The Annapolis Capital should receive the Pulitzer Prize for journalistic excellence.

 

Every editor and reporter in various ways has been threatened, whether on the news side, sports department, or others. They’ve been told over and over “my lawyer will sue you” along with other threats. Most complainers do so because their names may have been misspelled.

 

The victims in Annapolis have been known as top notch journalists. They wrote good news, features and columns. It’s not easy to get all the real facts written in time for deadlines and press runs.

 

It can be difficult and dangerous in the hunt for news. Police and court reporters, political writers and others are generally targets for venom – and often. It is rather exciting trolling city halls, state houses, police stations, and courthouses for stories. Most editors don’t allow anonymous sources with good reason. Usually such unidentifiable talkers and leakers are confirmed to editors.

 

The Annapolis killer wasn’t a victim. His activities were public and the results were printed. It’s easy these days to condemn reporters and editors. That’s nothing new.

 

Years ago covering the murder trial of a 15-year-old boy who axed an 11-year-old school mate was difficult for me. Great care was used quoting the prosecutor, defense attorney, the judge and witnesses. The accused’s devastated mother began midnight telephone calls with all kinds of threats because of front page stories. It was sad, frankly. The defense attorney managed to stop them.

 

On another occasion twin brothers, experts in assault and batteries, threatened, too, if their names appeared in the paper. Well, the judge heard them, tacked on a few months in jail and approved a concealed gun permit for the reporter. The siblings enjoyed jail so much they discovered the Virginia prison system to their liking so much they committed other felonies. They were corrected for years.

 

The newspaper business is not just fun and games. Local papers, dailies and weeklies, are the pulse of communities. Too many times publishers around the nation and world have gotten off kilter. Remember tragedies will continue to our dismay. Let’s hope murders in all forms will end.

 

Until crimes can be averted, newspapers will prevail with facts, far more than first paragraphs.

 

In Annapolis, the paper showed its mettle, professionalism, with its day-after publication detailing the murderous events. There was never a doubt the presses weren’t going to run. The hurt of Thursday events was certainly everywhere, but Friday readers got first-hand reports.

 

The smell of ink still reigns.

 

hmcovert@gmail.com

 



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