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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Opinion: We are not the enemy

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around the events that transpired in Annapolis, Maryland on Thursday, June 28.

I never expected to become a journalist. I started working at The Battalion my sophomore year and quickly discovered that I loved telling people’s stories through photos and the occasional article or video.

 This summer I am an intern at the San Antonio Express-News, and anyone who knows me knows how excited I was to get this internship. I was excited to learn from talented and experienced journalists. I was excited to spend my entire summer telling stories. I was excited to do what I love.

I imagine that Anthony Messenger felt the same way four weeks ago when he started his internship as a sports writer at The Capital Gazette.

 I can guarantee he never thought he’d find himself hiding under a desk in that newsroom, which four weeks in was probably starting to feel like home for him, and tweeting “active shooter 888 Bestgate please help us” as colleagues were gunned down around him.

 Everything surrounding this situation has hit too close to home for me.

 Jarrod W. Ramos, who is suspected of murdering five journalists and injuring two more on Thursday, June 28, held a long-standing grudge against The Capital Gazette.

 After a July 2011 article covered a criminal harassment charge against him, he filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over the story in 2012. The suit was ultimately dismissed.

As I sat in the Express-News newsroom Thursday afternoon reading the initial reports of this attack on The Capital Gazette, I couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if a gunman burst into our newsroom or The Battalion’s newsroom. It broke my heart.

I am proud of my Batt for their simple post stating that they stand with Annapolis and The Capital Gazette.

This post is not a political statement. It is not propaganda. It is not “fake news.”
It is a show of support from a group of young journalists who know how much a newsroom comes to feel like home, to a newspaper staff that is currently grieving the loss of five of their own while still “putting out a damn paper.”

The deaths of these five journalists, who were sitting in the newsroom on what probably started off as a normal Thursday morning, should not be taken lightly.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Wendi Winters was a mother of four who built a reputation as a prolific writer who chronicled her community. Gerald Fischman was the conscience and voice of the Annapolis news organization for 25 years. Rebecca Smith was a recent hire as a sales assistant who had already proved herself a valuable asset. John McNamara was living out his dream job as a sports reporter. Rob Hiaasen, who had a knack for finding good stories and loved teaching young journalists, had celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary a week before, and was murdered on his wife’s 58th birthday.

Those five lives did not deserve to be taken simply because they are journalists. I did my research. I know that the motive behind this shooting was personal, as I explained earlier. But that does not make the fact that this massacre occurred only two days after Milo Yiannopoulos’s comments about vigilante squads gunning journalists down less chilling.

“I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” Yiannopoulos told Observer over text message.

It doesn’t change the fact that when I left the newsroom on Thursday afternoon, not yet knowing the motive behind the shooting, I walked out in fear, as I’m sure many journalists across the country did. I walked out hoping I wouldn’t meet someone who wanted to harm me or my colleagues solely because we are journalists. It doesn’t change the fact that when I got home that night my mom hugged me a little tighter, or that when I left for work the next morning she felt the need to tell me to be safe in my newsroom.

The hatred that has been shown towards journalists over the past few years was not the motive behind this shooting, but it just as easily could have been.

Regardless of whether Yiannopoulos was joking, as he stated after the shooting on Thursday, prominent figures like he and President Trump have to understand that their words carry weight with many people in this country. They have to understand statements like that have consequences.

The scariest part of the aftermath of the Capital Gazette shooting is that people are more defensive of comments about gunning down journalists than they are outraged or heartbroken that it actually happened.

Just remember that when you support statements about gunning journalists down by saying Yiannopoulos was joking or you tolerate calling journalists “the enemy of the American people,” you’re contributing to fostering a society where instead of being overcome with outrage or sadness that five people were killed for no reason, people immediately begin to argue with one another about the logistics of the senseless crime.

I have yet to meet a journalist who sets out to spread misinformation or bias. Of course, there are some bad seeds out there, as there are in any profession. That is why it is up to us to make sure we’re not relying on biased news sources, because they do exist.

At The Battalion, we’re taught to tell the whole story by making sure both sides are explained. We’re taught to report facts, not speculation.

Sometimes we do make mistakes. We’re young, we’re learning. We aren’t perfect. But we are constantly working hard to become better journalists.

All that being said, when you’re referring to journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” keep in mind that you’re talking about a mother of four, or a man whose wife will now celebrate every birthday for the rest of her life by grieving her husband’s death.

 You’re talking about people who have a passion for telling stories. People who want to document their communities, who work hard to report truthful, fact-based information to the public.

But most importantly, you’re talking about people.

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