Thursday’s shooting inside the office of a local newspaper was the deadliest day for the media industry in the United States since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Five people were killed when a gunman opened fire on employees inside the offices of the Capital Gazette, a daily newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The victims have been identified as Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen and John McNamara, who were staff writers and editors, and Rebecca Smith, who was an ad sales assistant for the paper.
Authorities have described the shooting as a “targeted attack,” saying the gunman “looked for his victims as he walked through the lower level” of the office building where the newsroom is located. The alleged shooter, Jarrod Ramos, has been arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
President Donald Trump called the attack a “horrific” and “horrible” event and pledged to “reduce violent crime” in the country.
“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” Trump said at a press conference Friday. “My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.”
The last time multiple members of the media were killed in the United States was in August 2015 when Alison Parker, a reporter at CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, and Adam Ward, a photojournalist for the station, were shot dead by a former co-worker during a live report.
Journalists covering stories abroad are often faced with dangers, especially when reporting on the front lines of conflict zones. But it’s relatively rare for their news-industry peers working in the United States to be targeted.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based independent nonprofit, has been tracking threats to journalists around the globe since 1992. According to the group’s database, 10 journalists and media workers have been killed in the United States between 1992 and 2018, seven of whom were slain because of their work.
Thursday’s death toll of five raises the overall count to 15. It’s the deadliest day for the industry since the terror attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Committee to Protect Journalists’ database includes one journalist — a freelance news photographer — who was killed in the terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Six broadcast engineers affiliated with television stations also perished.
“We are appalled by the shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom. Newspapers like the Gazette do vital work, and our thoughts are with them amid this unconscionable tragedy,” Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement Friday. “Violence against journalists is unacceptable, and we welcome the thorough investigation into the motivations behind the shooting.”
Jarrod Ramos, a 38-year-old resident of Laurel, Maryland, was arrested as the suspect in the shooting and has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in Anne Arundel County.
Authorities are still investigating a motive for Thursday’s deadly attack, but the suspect appears to have had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper. In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the news organization and two staffers after the newspaper published a story about a harassment case in which he was the defendant.
“No responsible person, based on what is known today, would link the killings at the Gazette to the polarizing rhetoric that has become a feature of American political life. But this tragedy should be a reminder to our leaders and everyone else that we must all come together to defend the basic values of tolerance at the heart of the First Amendment, the right to express our views and to speak the truth without having to fear for our lives,” Simon wrote in an op-ed Friday for CNN.
The United States is now among the top five deadliest countries for journalists and media workers in 2018, according to data collected by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Afghanistan is no. 1.
“While the U.S. likes to think it is largely immune to the cycle of violent reprisal that characterizes the work of the media in so many parts of the world,” Simon wrote, “the murders at the Capital Gazette serve as a terrible reminder that the right to free expression is both precious and vulnerable, even in this country.