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Saturday, October 24, 2020

“Capital Gazette reporter’s tweet should be on every newspaper’s masthead”

Honorary editorial by Nate McCullough

“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook’s tweet after the deadly mass shooting in his newsroom was as bold as it was inspiring, but it was hardly surprising to his fellow journalists.

As another tweet shortly after Cook’s put it simply: “Of course they are.”

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Cook’s sentiment was more than just defiance in the face of violence and madness. It was an electronic verbalization of journalism’s creed.

It’s what journalists do. Our methods of delivery vary from digital signals to printed paper, but the result is the same: We deliver the news. More importantly, we try to deliver the truth in an age in which some have decided that even that is negotiable.

The task is hard enough when everything is going well. It gets harder in tough economic climates. Add weather events or natural disasters, and doing it becomes all the more miraculous. Most of us have been in one or more of these situations and put out the paper.

Save for war correspondents, almost none of us have had to do it in the face of gunfire. And even then, the correspondents went to the war.

On June 28, the war came to the Capital Gazette. After years of taking up so much of journalism’s print space and airwaves, America’s mass shooting epidemic finally trained its crosshairs on journalists themselves.

The rest of us in this profession cried. We said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” But few of us wondered, “What will the surviving Capital Gazette staff members do in the face of such tragedy?”

Because we already knew, even before Cook’s tweet. They’d put out the paper. At a time when they had every right to focus on themselves, they respected the people’s right to know.

Journalism isn’t dead. Their actions are confirmation that it is alive, and it is vigorous.

We’ve had a moment of silence. Now let’s say something.

As a salute to those at the Capital Gazette who lost their lives and those who rallied in the aftermath, please join The Times of Gainesville, Georgia, in echoing Cook’s rallying cry.

On Thursday, July 12, The Times will replace its slogan, Honestly Local, on the front-page masthead with Cook’s tweet. We invite all newspapers to do the same that day, or in the case of non-dailies, the nearest day of publication. Feel free to run this editorial — or better yet, one of your own — as an explainer to your readers.

On Friday, go back to whatever your version is of “All the news that fits.” But for one day, let this profession repeat Cook’s statement again, and remind everyone that we mean it, no matter what:

We are putting out a damn paper.

  • Nate McCullough

    Nate McCullough is the publications manager at The Times, Gainesville, Georgia.

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