Lori Falce: Newspapers are daily memorial to fallen journalists
At 2:34 p.m., I am usually sitting in a planning meeting with an assortment of editors talking about what is going where in the next day’s edition.
I am not under my desk deciding whether I should call 911 or worrying if that would be loud enough to draw a gunman’s attention to me. I am not casting my eyes around my small office to decide if my printer would be a better weapon than a plaque that seemed pretty important when I got it but doesn’t have much value in a gunfight.
I am not holding my son’s picture and wishing I got to hold him one more time.
At 2:34 p.m. on June 28, 2018, the first shots were fired at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. Jarrod Ramos, the man charged, had a grudge and a gun.
As some hid under desks and behind filing cabinets, others were ripped apart by bullets. Wendi Winters, 65, an editor and reporter, charged at the shooter with a trash can, creating a pause where others could escape.
She was one of the five killed that day. Four were journalists. The fifth was a sales associate.
None of them were embedded war correspondents or the kind of living-on-the-edge investigative reporters that you might see in a blockbuster action thriller. They were the kind of people you find in any newsroom in any city. They covered sports, wrote about the community, steered staff to stories, crafted editorials and sold ads.
None of them should have taken a bullet for their jobs, but they did.
On Tuesday, a bill was introduced in Congress that would allow The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation to begin work toward a monument to those members of the Fourth Estate who followed their calling and died for it.
On Wednesday, three politicians — a Democrat and two Republicans — stood at the National Press Club and pledged their support.
“Journalism is vital to the success of our democracy,” said Capital editor Rick Hutzell at the event. “A memorial like this is a just and fitting way to recognize that importance to our nation.”
It’s easy to point to Watergate and the Pentagon Papers as important journalism. What is just as important is the journalism that hits everyone every day by monitoring a school board that won’t follow the Sunshine Law or publishing crime stories without pulling punches no matter who protests.
A monument would be a concrete way to point to the fact that journalists die doing their jobs all the time. Police have a dangerous job, and USA Today said 144 of them died in 2018. Journalists carry a pen instead of a gun, and 53 were killed last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
But that shrine would be an extra.
Every day, in every newsroom, there is a meeting about putting out the daily memorial to what we do — the same memorial the Capital Gazette pushed through to produce on June 29, 2018, in honor of the five they lost.
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].