We wager our lives on hope

I’m not sure what to say here.

I feel strangely numb to the shooting of five newspaper employees in Maryland late last week. After reading the coverage and hearing people deplore the violence, I still feel numb.

I feel numb because this is the risk journalists take. We report things that people have a right to know. Sometimes — no, let me change that — often there are people who would rather we kept things a secret.

But that’s not our job.

Every day we are asked, sometimes pressured, to stay silent.

Or cast a story in an unrealistic light to favor someone’s agenda.

You may want that to be our job, but it’s not.

Our job is to put the meat and potatoes on the table. Here, we say, is what is real. You decide what to do with it. Yes, our editorial page takes a stand. But I’m referring now to the basic role of a journalist whose reporting falls on the front page.

Or in a column like this.

If what I have read is correct, it was a column that particularly triggered the anger that led to the shooting in Maryland. I believe the title was “Jarrod wants to be your friend.”

He didn’t like that.

The shooter, according to news accounts, harassed his victim to the point she lost her job, changed her name, and moved several times.

As journalists, we look at that and say that stinks. Why should someone have to live their life in fear because of someone else’s outrageous behavior?

So we tend to lift rocks to see what will crawl out.

Jarrod didn’t like that. He would have preferred that his behavior not be reported.

Journalists, the real ones, don’t like secrecy. They report stuff. They think about things like the public’s right to know. They ask themselves this kind of question: If we write about this, do you think this guy will be prevented from harassing another victim?

We hope the answer to that question is yes.

Apparently, we wager our lives on that hope.

We do that every day.

Jane Curtis is the editor of The Messenger.

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