In Light of the Capital Gazette Massacre – Reflecting on a Lifetime of Newspaper Reading
By Jack Levine
I have been a newspaper reader since I was 10. My father was blind and his intense interest in current events led to my service as his reader. You might say I was drafted to duty.
My father listened to public radio every day and relied on Walter Cronkite to report the news on CBS-TV each evening. It was his hunger to know the thoughts of his favorite newspaper columnists that required me to struggle through their complex writings. It was like climbing a high hill with rocks along the path. Often, I stumbled over the words and had to spell out the letters to arrive at the destination.
The core meaning of these columns was well beyond my youthful comprehension, but I knew my work was appreciated when my father’s blind eyes would sparkle with understanding. Often, he would subtly nod his head in agreement with a key point…or sometimes purse his lips in opposition.
These opinion columnists wielded great influence. The voices of both the writers and their readers were heard by political leaders, informing their role as policy makers.
I felt that my singular role to transmit the columnists’ opinions for one blind man had some effect on the events of the day. Fueled by his lifelong activist spirit, my father was a supporter of the Freedom Riders and other civil rights causes.
As a refugee immigrant who fled Czarist Russia as a teenager, my father took his U.S. citizenship seriously. Of course, he voted in every election and implored others to follow his lead in all things relating to social justice advocacy.
He knew that while one voice can be powerful, he understood that multiplying into a chorus is all the more influential.
The horrific murders of five journalists in Annapolis should bring our national consciousness to focus on the meaning of one of our fundamental rights…freedom of the press.
Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters each died as innocent practitioners of one of the most important trades in a free nation.
People who dedicate themselves to finding truths in our complex society and telling those truths so others are informed and inspired to act appropriately deserve our sincere appreciation.
The murderer who shortened the lives of these five Capital Gazette professionals impacted not only their loved ones, colleagues and community admirers, but in a larger sense wreaked havoc upon all responsible journalism.
Just like we should honor our fighting forces and first responders, so, too, should we honor the courage and commitment to our freedoms exercised by editors, reporters and opinion columnists.
Over my 40-year career as an advocate, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of news and investigative reporters and editorial opinion writers.
As individuals, I have found these men and women to be among the most intelligent, interesting and insightful people I know. While as in any field, there are some who fall short of the high standards we hope for, but they are rare exceptions.
If we learn any lesson from the Annapolis massacre and any other attack on the right of journalists to exercise their freedom of inquiry and obligation to report, let us remember that all evil is served by hiding in the shadows.
Those who deride responsible media professionals act in destructive ways by damaging our right to know the facts which affect our daily lives.
Shining the light of truth on problems is always a first step in achieving fairness, justice, and the greater social good.
Now that I’m a grandfather, I’m all the more dedicated to pave a positive path for future generations.
My hope is we re-balance our attitudes so that our children learn from our best example. As we proceed, there will always be more challenges ahead…fear, selfishness and rejection of change are ever present.
The question we have to ask ourselves seems simple yet profound: Do we accept incivility, violence and negativity as status quo or will we gather the forces of good, generosity and grace to advocate progress as a way of life?