“There’s been a shooting.”
The call came from one of our sales reps, Candace Matwijiw, just after five employees were gunned down at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md.
Her voice was low and shaking. She was worried — upset at the loss of life far from home but also concerned that it wouldn’t be a lone incident.
Candace wasn’t the only one making phone calls. After the news broke, New York City counterterrorism units were dispatched to stand guard at the headquarters of media outlets “out of an abundance of caution” until more could be learned. Some of my friends who are editors and reporters told me they nervously looked over their shoulders the rest of the day.
Obviously, we’ve never considered our office in Lorain County to be a high-risk target, though we have talked about how to handle a violent incident. There are going to be stories that make some people angry; I’ve taken plenty of calls from screaming folks who didn’t like the facts or want them shared.
To be honest, there have been days I felt vulnerable. Those days have increased in number since our president started declaring journalists to be “the enemy of the American people,” though there’s no indication that ideology played into what happened in Annapolis.
The Capital Gazette murders sent a chill through newsrooms around the country. They also drew journalists closer together. Those of us who work for AIM Media Midwest in Ohio and its sister newspapers in Indiana and Texas stand in solidarity with the sisters and brothers we lost in Annapolis. We were all proud in the aftermath when The Capital reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper.”
Over the last several years, we’ve all covered stories on school bomb threats, weapons in classrooms, school security guards, mass shooter training drills, and communities forging deals to put more police protection in hallways.
But the truth is that most mass shootings don’t happen in schools — many Americans, have recoiled in horror after gunfire cut short lives in churches, malls, movie theaters, and now in newsrooms, too.
A Martin Prosperity Institute analysis of mass shootings between 1971 and 2016 showed only a quarter happened at school. Where do shootings happen? Everywhere. In small towns and large cities. In suburbs, cities, and villages. In mostly-white communities and places that have more racial diversity.
But not in equal numbers.
Generally, the hot spots are middle class towns where the average household income spans from $40,000 to $70,000. Shootings are more likely to happen where there is a mix of ethnicities, but the shooters are mostly white. They are also almost always males.
There are other ways to break down the violence: An Everytown study of shootings from 2009 to 2016 found a quarter of mass shooting victims were kids. Only about 10 percent of the shootings took place in gun-free zones where civilians are barred by law from carrying firearms.
Most incidents, about two-thirds, took place in private homes. The majority of mass shootings were related to family violence.
Yes, journalists have reason to be worried about our safety — but so does everyone else. There is no place for gun violence in our land and I, for one, am sick of our leaders’ “thoughts and prayers.” If only they could take a break from consolidating power and taking campaign donations long enough to do something about the issue, maybe we could all go about our lives without that odd itch between our shoulder blades.
In the meantime, journalists are taking up a collection at www.gofundme.com/capitalgazette to help pay for medical bills, funeral costs, newsroom repairs, and other expenses for the Maryland victims. Thank you to those who join me in giving.