For as many years as we have had a free press, journalists have been protected by an unwritten code that essentially says, “Don’t slay the messenger.”
That code was broken yesterday when a gunman who had a beef with a newspaper in Annapolis, Md. allegedly opened fire on the newsroom, slaughtering five unarmed employees. As he pulled the trigger, he reportedly said something about “false news,” a favorite chant of a president that takes on the truth on a regular basis. Whether his comments added to the animosity against the press remains to be seen.
If you were around during Watergate, you will recall Bernstein and Woodward didn’t take a stand against President Richard Nixon, they only reported the truth, and many people who worked at the White House spilled the beans to the reporters because they were disgusted at what they saw.
This gunman allegedly had a personal disagreement with the Capital Gazette and now five people are dead. It’s not the fault of the system or of a president who disagrees with the press, but it looks like we reporters should be a little more cautious as we do our job.
But we will do our job despite the shooting. I promise you that.
– Tom Vaught, reporter since 1971