Press On: Journalism after the Gazette shooting

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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After the shooting at the Capital Gazette, many are questioning the future of journalism. Photo credit: Kevin Barrett

After receiving the jolting news of the Capital Gazette shooting that left five journalists dead last week, many have questioned what this event means for freedom of the press in the U.S.

Five employees of The Capital Gazette — Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith — were killed Thursday, June 28, after gunman Jarrod Ramos entered the office and opened fire. Ramos was charged with five counts of first degree murder.

According to The Hill, the gunman had a poor relationship with the paper and attempted to sue the paper for defamation.

In recent years the lifeblood of any democracy, the fourth estate — the free press —has increasingly come under attack. Many journalists, including the Sentinel staff, have come to fear the unwarranted risks of the profession, even in their own town.

“This was an attack on the press,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said following the attack. “It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

According to the Washington Post, 2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists, and data published by press freedom organizations indicate that the threats faced by journalists worldwide are only increasing.

There has been increasing political pressure on journalists in the U.S. with President Donald Trump often referring to the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Unfortunately, this phrase has a very long and horrific pedigree that can be found in both the French Terror and Soviet Terror. Thousands of people have been executed as “enemies of the people.” Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post questioned what role this type of political atmosphere may have played in the actions of the Capital Gazette shooter.

Julia McIntosh, a journalism major at KSU, says that while the attack has made her more fearful of the dangers to journalists, she is not deterred.

“It’s made me more scared to be a journalist,” McIntosh said. “I’m never going to be scared to tell stories for those in need.”

In the days following the shooting, the Capital Gazette also received death threats and emails from people they don’t know celebrating their loss. In a letter released by the Capital Gazette staff said, “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”

In the age of growing political polarization and nationwide accusations of media, we must not forget the importance and sacrifice of journalists. Although “facts” and well-vetted sources are the cornerstone of quality journalism, and it is the duty of the people to call out errors or mistakes that are made, we have grown to be a completely intolerant people. People sit comfortably behind a computer and hurl insults or belittle the sacrifice of journalists who work long hours for very little pay, and who sometimes pay a price too high for it.

Journalism is constantly changing, and we as journalists must always adapt. We must never forget the sacrifice and bravery of the journalists who fight to bring truth to light.

Press on.

The Sentinel staff would like to honor those killed in the attack: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Rise in Deadly Mass Shootings Could Mean Legislative Action in Georgia Says Political Expert

News Reporting and Writing

By Robert Thomas

KENNESAW, Ga. – A local expert in political science stated Friday that the issue of gun violence in America is “bordering on crisis” and that Georgia has the potential to follow in the foot steps of Massachusetts in banning bump stocks.

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KSU Journalism student Robert Thomas (left) and Dr. Kerwin Swint (right).

While Dr. Kerwin Swint, chair of the department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, acknowledges that Georgia historically has among the weakest gun laws in the nation, he believes there is potential to pass legislation banning bump stocks in the state of Georgia on a non-election year. Although, Swint maintains that Georgia is still very far away from properly addressing the issue of gun control, and laments that lately the legislature has actually been going the opposite way. However, Georgia is not alone in the push toward looser gun laws, with Republicans lining up a vote in the U.S. House next week on making it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines. Gun sales also continue to rise, with Black Friday gun shoppers recently setting a single-day record on gun purchase-related background checks.

Swint asserts that the issue of gun violence is objectively getting worse and with 18 of the 30 deadliest shootings in the US, dating back to 1949, having occurred in the last 10 years, he is seemingly well supported by the numbers. Swint largely attributes the high rates of gun violence in the U.S. to the unique gun culture of the United States, and is strongly echoed in this sentiment by his colleague Dr. David Shock, who is also a professor of Political Science as KSU. However, while Shock believes that education and mental health are the larger contributing factors to the problem of mass shootings, Swint contends that the lack of gun restrictions is the main factor. “The time has come to take action that may be politically painful, but is going to create a safer society,” said Swint.

Local KSU student and former U.S. Marine Brandon Lee is skeptical of any gun control measures enacted in Georgia however, and believes that registration of weapons will lead to confiscations. Although, surprisingly in opposition to the Republican Party, Lee agrees with specific measures of regulation, such as required training and expanding the background check to private sales. Lee also stated he would not be opposed to legislation in Georgia banning bump stocks, a gun accessory the Las Vegas shooter used to increase his rate of fire.

Despite the popular support of such gun control policies by the majority of both parties, Shock and Swint both emphasized that the mostly likely contributing factor for the lack of movement on this issue is the might of the lobbying force of the National Rifle Association, or the NRA. “The NRA is probably the most successful single issue lobbying group in the history of this country,” said Swint. Shock believes that the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the second amendment is also a strongly limiting factor on enacting gun control legislation at the state level and believes the issue would be better addressed at the national level.