There have been a flood of cartoons about the Capital Gazette murders, but Marshal Ramsey offers the sentiment that matters to me.
I also like Liza Donnelly's quiet, controlled tribute, because she didn't overplay it, though she added a commentary that spoke of sorrow, which I appreciate, saying, in part:
We don’t know yet the motive for the murders at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. But we do know that anger in this country is at an all-time high. We have to find a way to stop it. I drew this image on my phone as a tribute to the lives lost.
Her sorrowful restraint touched me because she didn't claim a special status for her grief. She saluted them as hard-working people, but as victims, not as superheroes.
Yeah, we're sad, but, on the other hand, people at UPS are probably sad when someone shoots things up at their workplace, only they don't have the means of saying so as publicly as we do.
I do agree that, while this was apparently the work of a lone screwball with no political agenda, the fact that we have a fascist wannabe in the White House encouraging people to act out against the media was likely a contributing factor.
So I appreciate Clay Bennett's commentary and, like others in the industry, I hope this doesn't turn into a trend.
But here's why I like Marshall Ramsey's piece:
I was, needless to say, not working in the newsroom of the Plattsburgh Republican in September, 1814, when invading British soldiers smashed up the office.
But it is part of the history of the Press-Republican, where I did work some 175 years later, that they simply gathered up the scattered type and by-gawd published on schedule.
And, in 1997, when Grand Forks, ND, was flooded and the downtown in flames, the Herald, bless their hearts, placed their reporters on a hillside at the local university and by-gawd got the paper out on schedule.
They won a special Pulitzer, not because they were "heroes," but because they maintained focus on the mission of keeping the public informed.
Because that's the mission.
These days, it's not all print. I got a kick out of my former assistant editor who had become editor of a nearby weekly, and, when Hurricane Irene was tearing us apart, not only kept up a constant on-line listing of what roads were closed and where the fire departments wanted help and where they wanted people to stay away, but was leaning out the office window snapping photos of the raging Ottauquechee River as it swept away the pilings of the newspaper building.
Maybe you need to have ink in your blood to understand it, but the bottom line is this: Get the goddam paper out.
So, yes, I would rest more easily, knowing that they got the paper out.
But I am an old man and the things I believe in don't matter any more.
It used to be that every paper had an agreement with a rival, or a corporate partner, or someone, such that, if your presses broke down, you could get your pages over to them and they would print your paper for you and it would, perhaps late, but by-gawd, be on the streets.
Well, when an ice storm shut things down in 1998, my own paper got the paper out, not to very many subscribers because the roads were impassible, but within the city, by-gawd. But our rival on the other side of Northern New York did not, because ... well, I don't know why not. 'Cause it was hard?
And as Gwen was hanging out the window shooting into the storm, the daily in our market was calling things off because their press room was flooded. They have corporate partners within a two-hour drive, but, well, it was just too much of a hassle, I guess.
That scares me one helluva lot more than Donald Trump's War on Truth, because what if they gave that war and nobody came?
The Final Word
The original is framed over my desk, because, after I picked myself up and resumed breathing, it tickled me a great deal more than a standard "does not meet our needs" letter possibly could have.
A few years ago, the story of the letter went a little viral and I blogged about it, including a copy of the story it was in response to, which, by the way, drew a lot of jeers from humorless hipsters who apparently never heard of Donald Barthelme or read John Lennon.
But, because Dr. Thompson's response made such big waves, I've only mentioned in passing that, a year earlier, when I submitted it with my samples for a writing workshop, Harlan Ellison praised it, calling it a "Marx Brothers landscape" and saying some other nice things I wish that I could remember, then concluding "The man has talent."
If you wanted to stage a curmudgeon contest, Harlan Ellison and Hunter Thompson would make a damn good cage match, but, while the furious humor of Thompson's response provided the most astonishing moment, it was Ellison's more serious, thoughtful encouragement that really made a difference to me.
I'm not a science-fiction fan and was never a reader of his work, but I've always kept a warm spot in my heart for a guy who gave a 20-year-old hack a bit of encouragement right at the moment I needed to decide if this writing thing was worth going all in on.
Thanks for the kind words, man. I'm doing my best to get the paper out.