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Slain Journalists - Unsung Heroes

In Washington, DC, there is a wall that contains the names of 2,323 people who should be considered heroes to all freedom loving people. Rising for two stories in Washington's Newseum, this wall honors journalists who have lost their lives reporting the news.

Soon, five more names will be added to that wall. They are the men and women murdered at The Capital Gazette yesterday in Annapolis, MD, when the man suspected in the massacre fired a shotgun through the glass front door of the newspaper's office, killing five and injuring two others.

According to published reports, the man, Jerrod Warren Ramos, was angry with the Capital Gazette because of its coverage of his criminal case, a matter of public record. That’s what hometown newspapers do every day: write about crime, courts, local government, sports, schools, police and fire, community activities.

Their job is to inform. To help readers understand by providing facts and putting them into context. They usually are little heralded, but their work is incredibly important. You can read more about the Capital Gazette victims here.

This Los Angeles Times article recounts the history of journalists who have been killed doing their job. It hasn’t happened to a newspaper journalist in the United States in more than 10 years, The Times reports. In 2007, Chauncey Bailey, who edited the weekly Oakland Post, was gunned down to shut down his reporting about Oakland’s Your Black Muslim Bakery, whose financial and personnel problems Bailey had been covering, the Times writes.

A Personal Experience

Years ago, when I was in my 20s covering state politics in New Jersey for United Press International, I was threatened by right-wing protestors outside the State House in Trento. They were supporting the late Dr. Carl McIntire, a fiery fundamentalist evangelist whose Shelton College was prohibited by the state Department of Education from granting degrees.

My reporting was partially responsible for this, as I had discovered, and reported that the McIntire-selected academic dean, Richard Coulter, had never graduated from college and that the degrees he claimed to have personally were false. Coulter, who McIntire publicly claimed had the experience and academic credentials to help Shelton College meet state standards, eventually was fired.

During this controversy, McIntire led a protest rally in Trenton against the state's action that I covered. "There, he is, the left wing liberal press," a woman in the crowd screamed, pointing at me. "He did this."

Fortunately, no harm came from her tirade and the protest, while rowdy, was generally peaceful. Although unnerved, I was unharmed.

It was a scary moment, however; one of just a few that occurred during my career as a local community newspaper, and then UPI, reporter and bureau chief. But it's not uncommon, especially today.

The Trump Effect

The LA Times article points out that "every day, and now more and more each year, newspaper reporters and radio, TV and online news reporters across this country get hate mail, hate email, even death threats. Some are preposterous; some are all too plausible. Within hours of Thursday’s murders, Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen tweeted, “I’ve had people email death threats, threaten to cut my dog's throat, tell me I'd pay for my fake news.”

The First Amendment of the Constitution is supposed to protect freedom of speech and a free press. But under Donald Trump's presidency, it is under attack. And when he calls journalists "the enemy of the people," it only emboldens bitter and dangerous people like the Capital Gazette shooter.

It also encourages Trump supporters and idiots in the media, too. The other day I was listening to music on a local Myrtle Beach, SC classic rock station and the DJ said a listener had called in to say that "Fake News reporters should be strung up."

"I'm OK with that," the DJ said.

Thanks Trump. You like walls, go visit the one in the Newseum.

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