Sarah Stultz: Support for journalism never more critical

Published 9:59 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

Nose for News, By Sarah Stultz

Several years ago, before I became the editor here at the Albert Lea Tribune, I remember there was a period of time where it seemed like I had a flat tire every couple months.

A technician who changed out the tire one of the times told me and my husband that the tire looked like it had been slashed.

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After we heard that, I became a little paranoid. I remember thinking to myself about what stories I had written at that time for the newspaper and if there were any crime stories I had written that someone would not have been happy with.

Though we never did reach a solid conclusion on what happened with that tire and at least a handful of others over the next few years, my husband and I would always joke around about it, hoping there was some other explanation.

I haven’t thought about those flat tires much recently until I heard of the Thursday mass shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

For a few hours after the shooting, authorities were still trying to figure out who the shooter was and what his motive might have been.

I thought briefly about my own experiences in journalism and wondered what the likelihood was that something similar — but on a worse scale — might have happened there.

As a journalist, hearing about such a horrific shooting at an establishment similar to the Tribune still sends chills down my spine.

I read the tweets of some of the reporters who witnessed it all firsthand and survived and comments from other staff who were out of the building at the time of the shooting and who found out through other means.

As the day went on, more information about the shooter came to light. The man, in his 30s, had a long-standing grudge against the newspaper over an article written in 2011 that covered a criminal harassment charge against him. In 2012, he filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper, which he lost.

A former editor and publisher who was named as one of the defendants in the suit, said, “I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us,’” according to The Baltimore Sun.

And that is exactly what happened.

It appears the shooter had targeted the newspaper — just as I had feared.

In a day when journalism is attacked daily and when the reporters of our own newspaper have been verbally assaulted while covering a campaign rally, the support for journalism has never been more critical.

While I am shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting, I have also never been prouder to call myself a journalist. This is a group of people that stands up when it may not be popular to do so, that dedicates their lives night and day to inform and keep their communities safe, and that is on a mission for truth.

The reporters and photographers left behind at the Capital Gazette offer a shining example of solid journalism as they work to cover the massacre of their own co-workers and friends.

They have written captivating stories about their co-workers who have died and also about those who have survived, and at the same time, it’s clear they are still real people.

They have taken part in vigils and on multiple occasions already, they have stood up for the power of the press and against all of journalism’s foes.

These people know what it means to run a community newspaper, and they have motivated me in the efforts of our own newspaper in Albert Lea.

I encourage you to support local journalism and your local journalists.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.