I used to be a newspaper reporter and editor for small award-winning local papers.
Sometimes I miss it.
Sometimes I don’t.
Thursday afternoon five workers (reporters, editors, sales) at the Capital, an Annapolis newspaper, were killed.
People are violently killed each day. In newsrooms. In homes. On streets. In wars. In schools. In places of religious worship.
And that’s the thing.
I Used To Be A Reporter and Editor
When I was a reporter and an editor, I made barely a living wage, but I did it because I loved learning about the people in my community and I loved sharing their stories. I didn’t do it for the money. There was no fame unless you count Maine Press Awards.
Spoiler alert: Those shouldn’t count.
There was just a passion to make sure that people knew what their local government was doing, what they could do, what was happening.
As a member of the press, I often felt powerless because I had to report on things that needed to change, but I couldn’t be an active agent/instigator/or participant in that change.
I still feel powerless even though I’m not confined by my job anymore.
Once the publisher and executive editor of the second paper I worked for called editorial staff into a meeting because someone we wrote about in the police beat was threatening the paper. The police were made aware, but our downstairs office was vulnerable with big opening windows, meant to reflect the transparency of our work and our openness to staff.
One of my editors said to me after, “We will all die if someone comes in here with a gun.”
I said, “I know.”
“What can we do?” he asked.
“Just continue until we can’t,” I suggested. “I mean, what else can we do?”
I didn’t really believe it would happen. Not really. The meanest thing I had to deal with as a reporter was people insulting my intelligence because I had ‘pigtails.’
Note: They were braids.
I didn’t live in fear. The worst thing I had to deal with were town managers making sexual comments and random people asking me out on dates and a boss #metooing me into another position.
Yes, I did make that a verb, a hashtag verb.
I Used To Be Innocent
I thought people could understand that everyone was human and that once they had that magical understanding – poof! – their hate would stop.
I forgot about greed as a motivation.
I forgot that people ignore facts that don’t support their belief systems.
I was naive.
When politicians and hate-media vilify the press, reporters, journalists, photographers, they are vilifying and dehumanizing people – real people – often your neighbors.
Let me tell you about the reporters I know, working right now.
There’s a woman who sings to a friend’s dog on back porches during parties, quietly bonding with him when everyone else has left him.
There’s a man who plays drums in a 80s cover band. I found a body with him once.
There’s a woman who falls in love with every stud she interviews, but never ever does anything. She likes chocolate and her family.
There’s a woman who wants to be a traditionally published author much more than she wants to be a reporter, a woman who dreams.
There’s another man who walks his golden through the neighborhoods of Bar Harbor, greeting everyone he sees with care and kindness.
They are not anyone’s enemy. Just like children aren’t. Just like black men driving aren’t. Just like a wife isn’t.
But I don’t know how to make people understand that.
I Used To Be Someone Who Believed in Safety
I thought that my closet was safe, my mom, big dogs, my bed surrounded by stuffed animals. I was lucky that way because for a long time I believed that home was always a good place, a place to run to. Not everyone had that. Not everyone gets that. And then I thought work was that place… until it wasn’t.
What does it mean to live in a world where nothing is safe? Where going to school, going to church/temple/mosque, going to eat, standing on a corner, sleeping in a bedroom, walking down a street, doesn’t feel safe?
It feels like this. It feels like denial and shock if you have been living privileged and lucky.
But what it really feels like?
So many times in the last ten years I’ve pitched book ideas only to hear, “That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t still happen.”
People were shocked by #metoo, shocked by the systemic racism that causes people to die, shocked by the continuation of white supremacy groups, by the mysogyny, by anti-LGBTQA crimes, by human trafficking, and hate.
That shock is a lovely luxury, but we can’t be shocked anymore.
I Used To Be Someone Who Thought I Could Save The World. Alone.
I had a savior complex. I know better now.
When people tell us their stories, don’t laugh. Listen. Be honored that they trust you enough to share themselves with you – and that includes the sad, scared, angry parts, too.
Women shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their homes. Children shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their schools and homes. People shouldn’t be afraid of police, of nightclubs, of snipers and bombs and sometimes even cars. People shouldn’t be afraid to post their opinion on the internet because it could mean stalking and trolls. People shouldn’t be afraid to worship or protest or eat at a restaurant or board a plane or go to work or practice for a softball game or drive a car while black, or stand outside their home while in the Tohono O’ogham Nation.
But people are afraid. Or they are shocked.
Exposing the hate that happens? That’s a first step. But it’s only one step and this fight, the rectifying of our society isn’t going to happen in a straight line. There has to be multiple work on multiple fronts and one of those fronts is inside of ourselves.
Here’s a Huffington Post article that shows just how real the anti-press hate is. It is uncensored and explicit.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.
Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.