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  • Near Miss & A Newsroom Tragedy

    When I was in Reidsville, an angry and grieving man walked into our newsroom, came into my tiny office without warning, and shut the door behind him. His teenaged niece had died in a car accident.

    The Review, like many small-town community newspapers, had covered the fatality in extensive detail. And the man was angry about the story we had published, which quoted the police report that said his niece was at fault. He believed the story had left a “black stain” on his niece and on his family.

    Anxious to take out his anger and grief on someone, the man threatened multiple times to punch me, even as I tried to listen and calmly talk him down. Finally, I said, "Go ahead," with the stipulation that as soon as the punch was thrown I would throw him through the plate glass window that separated my office from the rest of the newsroom.

    Given that I was 5 inches taller and 40 pounds (at least) heavier, he opened my door and left.

    The police were called.

    I was lucky. He never came back.

    This afternoon, at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., five employees were killed when a man with a shotgun opened fire in the newsroom. Details remain sketchy, even though a suspect is in custody and has been identified. A few minutes ago, police said the man had filed a defamation claim against the paper in 2012, but the case was dismissed in 2015.

    Threats and physical violence against journalists have risen in recent years, which comes as no surprise given the shouting over “fake news” and the fragmented nature of our society. When I saw reports of this latest gun-related tragedy, I immediately flashed back to that day in Reidsville, and to my career as a newspaper journalist.

    I worked for community papers in Texas and North Carolina for more than a decade. It is hard, grueling labor, the only constants being long hours and low pay. (You sure as hell don’t do it for the money, the quality of life, or the fame.)

    You do it because you love to write and be part of the community in which you live. You publish, despite what others may think, more good stories than bad ones.

    This horrible news is now up on the Capital Gazette website, and reporters say there will be a print edition tomorrow. Because even in the face of tragedy, that’s what good journalists do.


  • Another Mass Shooting

    I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this, knowing many of you will think it is my liberal take on gun control. Think about this: I’ve never shared anything by Occupy Democrats.

    Until now.

    Like others, this Facebook post  generated a great deal of discussion. I also had to make a few rebuttals:

    • On accusations of being too liberal: I didn't affiliate this man with a political party. I made no statements about guns or gun control. I haven't said a single word about a person's right to bear arms. I said he is a terrorist. And he is. End of statement.

    • Comparisons to the Las Vegas shooter: The Vegas shooter was, in my opinion, a terrorist. Anyone who commits or advocates for mass violence against innocent people is a terrorist. Period.

    • On division in our country: Why does everything have to be so divided? This shouldn’t be a time of us vs. them. We shouldn’t be keeping a mass murder scorecard: GOP 2, Dems 1 (or vice versa). That does no one any good. No one.

    • About automatic weapons in the hands of anyone with a permit: Limit them only to the military and law enforcement. Don’t put them in the hands of anyone else. Under any circumstances. That work?

  • The Niche of Extremism

    ex•trem•ist (n): a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.

    This term has taken on new meaning in 2016. Just look around you. Visit your news feed on Facebook. Look at the vitriol on the campaign trail. For every good moment that we witness, for every proud graduate that we watch crossing the stage, for every small victory that someone has when he or she manages to get out of bed in the morning, we watch helplessly as extremists take over the conversation.

    Sunday morning’s tragedy in Orlando shows us yet again the best and worst in people. It brings the same outpouring of grief and compassion that we saw in the wake of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Paris, and too many others to count. It brings the same number of talking head “experts” onto cable television to fill the airwaves. It brings out the writers (me included) and so-called analysts who feel compelled to weigh in.

    With what? Opinions. Conjecture. Speculation about motives. The why, why why.


    The extremists show no signs of letting go, willing to use isolation and intolerance as their comfort food. Extremists thrive on attention. That’s why it takes a mass shooting to temporarily lift us out of our self-imposed food comas and look at the world around us.

    The first word that came to mind when I saw the news this morning was “Horrible.” I saw the horrible tweet that came from Dan Patrick’s Twitter feed, followed by the wave of condemnation. I saw Donald Trump’s narcissistic “I was right” statement, still in shock that he has a one-in-two chance of being the leader of our country. I’ve seen God’s name used to justify beliefs from all sides — the pro-gun community, the anti-gun community, the LGBT community, the Fundamentalist community, the Muslim community.

    That’s part of the problem. We’ve become so strongly identified with our niches, our think-alike communities, that we can’t seem to take a step back in our day-to-day lives and look at the bigger picture.

    I don’t disagree with a person’s right to bear arms, but I don’t understand why anyone believes it should be easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

    I don’t understand why someone who identifies as transgender, and is willing to be above board and brave in the face of bigotry and misunderstanding, can’t go to the damn bathroom of his/her choice.

    You can agree or disagree with me on those issues and countless others, but can't we do so in a civil manner? Or is that impossible in today's extremist world?

    Come on, folks. We’re better than this. We can’t let the extremists on either side win.