Journalism at its finest

Kudos to the staff of the Annapolis, Md.-based Capital Gazette for putting out a newspaper the morning after five of their friends and co-workers were murdered by a disgruntled reader who had previously filed an unsuccessful defamation suit.

One of the victims, Ron Hiaasen, was the brother of famed Florida newspaper man and novelist Carl Hiaasen.

The shooter used social media to issue threats against his local paper.

Putting out a paper is challenging under the best of circumstances. To do so in the wake of this horrific tragedy displayed journalistic dedication and professionalism of the highest order.

The Capital Gazette shooting is a reminder of the impact a newspaper can have on a reader and vice versa. We’d like to think that no one who reads our local papers would ever go to such an extreme, but did the folks at the Gazette ever envision this happening to them?

Sadly, mass shootings have become all too familiar in America these days. They still shock and sadden us, but they no longer surprise us. These senseless shootings targeting workplaces, schools, night clubs and a congressional softball game create for some local journalists a heightened sense of appreciation for the police presence provided at city commission meetings in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

Sgt. Mike Jones usually attends Anna Maria commission meetings. If he’s unavailable, one of his deputies is there – and Anna Maria’s meetings are rarely contentious.

In Holmes Beach, Chief Bill Tokajer sits on the dais where he can view the chamber floor and the points of entry leading to it. If Tokajer’s not there, Det. Sgt. Brian Hall is. If a larger than usual crowd is expected, an extra officer is asked to attend.

Police attendance at city and county meetings is more the norm than the exception, but Bradenton Beach remains an exception. Commissioner Jake Spooner recently asked his commission to consider having an officer present at their meetings. His suggestion received little support and garnered no serious discussion. Given the contentious nature of Bradenton Beach politics, perhaps it’s time to reconsider that idea.

An unprotected chamber heightens the risk for commission members, city staff, city residents and the media. A police presence might discourage a spontaneous or premeditated act of violence from unfolding. And should the unthinkable happen, an armed officer could potentially lessen the severity of any violence initiated. – Joe Hendricks

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