Column: We cannot become desensitized to mass shootings (opinion)
On Thursday I sat in front of my desk, teary eyed, reading about yet another mass shooting in our country. It’s the 154th in 2018, according to nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shooting in the U.S. — and we’re only six months in.
My chest tightened and I felt overwhelmingly — exhaustingly — sad as I read the words of Capital Gazette Crime Reporter Phil Davis.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he later told the Baltimore Sun. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”
Five people died that day and many others were “gravely injured.” It’s become an all-too-common tragedy in our country — in schools, in movie theaters, at concerts, in offices, and in newsrooms.
They have all been heartbreaking, but this one in particular shook me. It was a fierce reminder of what a fractured, angry and violent time we’re living in here in America. And it hit home in a way that felt all too real.
I couldn’t help but think about my coworkers in the newsrooms across Swift Communications — the reporters, editors, publishers, designers, sales staff. It could have been them. It could have been any of us.
I read the tweets from Gazette Editor Jimmy DeButts, feeling at once devastated and proud by his articulation of what it means to be a journalist in today’s world.
“There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” wrote DeButts. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”
“We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way,” he continued. “The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be.”
Across our company, newsrooms congregated on Friday to discuss what the shooting means for us.
At the Tahoe Daily Tribune, several of my coworkers spoke about how they don’t feel any less safe at work, because really, this sort of thing could happen to you anywhere nowadays. Others worried about their desk placement in relation to the main entrance. We formed an evacuation plan.
What an incredibly sad reality.
At this point, you might expect me to espouse my views on gun control — of which I have a few — or discuss the attack on the press spearheaded by the current administration, but I won’t.
Today a part of me wanted to escape — to not read the tributes on the Gazette’s Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, John McNamara and Rob Hiaasen filled with grief-stricken quotes from family, friends and coworkers about their lost loved ones.
When every day seems to bring with it more tragedy, more hate speech, more disagreement, it’s easy to want to tune it all out. It’s also easy to become desensitized by it.
At the current rate, we could break the 300 mark for mass shootings in 2018. But we cannot distance ourselves from these tragedies and accept this as the new normal.
Whether you believe we need better mental health services, stricter gun laws, or more security measures in offices, schools and at public events, do your part to enact that change.
And in the Capital Gazette’s newsroom in Annapolis, despite the loss of their friends and colleagues, the news team continued to report on the tragedy unfolding in front of them for the rest of the nation.
“I can tell you this,” tweeted Gazette Reporter Chase Cook, “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
“Yes,” responded the paper’s official Twitter handle. “We’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
Claire Cudahy is a special features writer for Sierra Nevada Media Group, which produces the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Nevada Appeal, Northern Nevada Business View and more. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.