For Our Brothers and Sisters in Annapolis

Friday, June 29, 2018, 12:28 pm
Alice Dreger, Publisher of ELi

Reading about those murdered and those who survived yesterday at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, it has been impossible not to see them as us, particularly in the way the reporters and editors there are determined to report on their own.

And as it turns out, they are kind of second-cousins to us; ELi’s lead schools reporter, Karessa Wheeler, met her husband Brian working at the Capital Gazette. When I learned this from our Managing Editor, Ann Nichols, today, I thought back to the conversation I had with Ann about how we would cover a big shooting here.

The conversation came after another mass shooting in America – I can’t remember which one. I was thinking the discussion would take a long time. But it didn’t. It went something like this:

Me: “So, how should we handle coverage of a mass shooting for the community?”

Ann: “We will need to be accurate, fair, nonpartisan, and think about what the community needs to know. You know – we will be ELi reporters.”

Me: “How will we work with the police?”

Ann: “We will, as always, bug them to talk to us when the crisis allows them to talk to us.”

Me: “Which reporters will you assign?”

Ann: “It will depend, as usual, on who is available and knows what’s happening. We can’t predict that in advance.”

Me: “What will we do in terms of helping national reporters who come here to cover it?”

Ann: “We will give them whatever help they need. We always help any reporter who asks us for information or help understanding an East Lansing story. More accurate news is always better for everyone.”

Today, learning about Karessa’s connection to the folks in Annapolis, I found myself thinking – how are any of us going to be in any shape to cover a mass shooting if it happens here?

Well, I think we will turn out to be like the people at the Capital Gazette, and realize we have to go on, and do the work. Like them, we aren’t here because it’s a job. We are here because it is our vocation. That’s true for everybody in local news today.

From the New York Times report today: “At its height, the [Capital Gazette] employed some 250 people and operated its own printing press, [Tom Marquardt, a former executive editor and publisher at The Capital] said. In more recent years, the news staff has shrunk. ‘Everyone left there stuck to their profession because they loved what they did,’ Mr. Marquardt said.”

Most days I ask you to think about donating to ELi to support our work. I asked Ann today if was okay for me to suggest you might consider donating to the GoFundMe campaign for the Capital Gazette survivors, their newsroom, and the families of the victims. We discussed whether that would count as partisan. ELi is nonpartisan.

“What would the ‘other side’ of that request look like?” she asked. “What would balance look like in terms of that request?”

She wasn’t asking that in a snotty, sarcastic fashion. She was doing her job.

The GoFundMe fundraiser is here.

And just a reminder to please sign up for one of our mailers. It’s how we will get news to you fastest if something big hits East Lansing.


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