Comes With the Territory

The recent attack at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., in which a man who had been nursing a grudge against the newspaper shot and killed two reporters, an editor, an editorial writer, and a young sales assistant, struck close to home in more ways than one. Several years ago, on a freezing winter’s night, somebody broke most of The Star’s front windows. Speculation in the office centered on a guy who’d been furious about his name appearing in the police news — much like the shooter in Maryland — but no one was ever caught. Nor was that incident the only one of its kind. Way back when Everett Rattray was editing The Star, a man brandished a rifle at him and threatened to shoot up the place.

Every paper, unfortunately, has stories like that; they come with the territory, all the more so if it’s local. Never, though, have journalists been under attack in this nation as they have from the day Donald Trump took office. In Russia, maybe, they shoot dissenting news people on the streets — not here, not  yet anyway. But Mr. Trump, with his unbridled talk of “fake news” and newspapers as “the enemy of the American people” has so contaminated the prevailing atmosphere that more people than not now say they distrust or disbelieve everything they read or hear. (With one exception, of course: Fox News.)

There’s been no indication whatever that the murders at The Gazette are in any way connected to the president’s divisive rhetoric. But it ought not be too much to hope that in their wake, he makes a dispassionate reading of the First Amendment he so often abuses, and comes to understand that at its heart is the right of all Americans to say what we believe without fearing for our very lives.