Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters
During the American Revolution community newspapers in the embryonic country bound citizens together with provocative editorials and news of the day as citizens rose up to break free of the tyranny of a King. Many newspapers published the Declaration of Independence and helped to popularize the founding principles of our nascent country.
The Tories saw the news as divisive and slanted.
The Patriots proclaimed freedom of speech against despotic rule.
During the Civil War, community newspapers in a divisive country kept track of the dead, the battles and helped inform citizens with editorials and news often seen as opinionated and slanted.
During the Vietnam War, community newspapers told of boys going to war and men coming home broken or in coffins. The nation fought over the value of the news. Some considered it anti-establishment. Some saw it as grassroots reporting.
Throughout our history community newspapers have been the backbone of journalism and a cornerstone to our republic even as some have assailed the reporting.
Sewer rates. PTA meetings. High school and community sports. Pictures of our kids playing those sports. County Fairs. State Legislatures. County Councils. Infrastructure. Taxes. All of those stories and more adorn the pages of your typical community newspaper as do the public notices letting you know when and where there is a government meeting to attend.
What proud parent, upon seeing their progeny on the page of a newspaper hasn’t cut that picture out and hung that photo with a magnet on a refrigerator or put it away in a photo album?
This work is brought to you by civic-minded individuals who toil away for longer and for far less money than their television reporting cousins.
As first television and then the Internet have inundated the consumer news market, the community newspaper has chugged along – adapting to the computer age while doing the job with fewer people and less money as advertisers have steadily abandoned these newspapers for online click-bait.
Though squeezed hard by market forces, the backbone still survives.
Thursday, five people in Annapolis, working for the Capital Gazette, one of Maryland’s oldest and most venerated community newspapers, unwantedly gave the last full measure of their life trying to do their jobs.
Rebecca Smith worked to bring advertising and money into the paper. Wendi Winters, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara and Gerald Fischman were senior members of the staff who wrote, edited, and mentored young talent and like everyone else involved in community newspapers, served any number of functions to help produce a newspaper to better inform members of their own community. They did not take this job lightly. They did not ask for accolades. They did their job. They are you and me. They were.
A disgruntled and apparently mentally troubled reader targeted the editors to die for perceived slights.
Each day community newspapers deal with those who don’t like coverage, or are upset with aspects often minor about the details of a story that has been reported. All of this is part of the editorial process. Editors have to decide whether or not to issue corrections and sometimes they explain the editorial process to those who will listen. They are responsible to their conscience, their readers and the owners to keep things as accurate as possible and present the most accurate version of the story available by deadline. It is a universal mantra in community journalism.