I’ve been fortunate to have worked in two professions: journalism and education.
As a newspaper reporter in Danbury, CT, I covered local government: everything from elections to zoning meetings. I attended lengthy Board of Education meetings and would return to the newsroom to write for a midnight deadline. The News-Times then was an afternoon paper. During the day, I’d often return to town hall to meet with government officials, who patiently answered my endless questions about mill rates and taxation, planning and zoning, and all the other aspects of running a town.
I also wrote features on anything I could—human interest it was called, and readers wanted to read about their neighbors doing interesting things. I covered ball games and school plays. I loved the work and newsroom camaraderie — the night staff was mostly young college graduates starting out in their first journalism jobs.
As a teacher, I taught middle schoolers Language Arts, everything from grammar to Shakespeare, test prep and poetry. I loved interacting with my students and nurturing the love of reading and writing. I had wonderful, dedicated colleagues.
In both careers, I never worried about getting killed. I didn’t don a flak jacket and helmet to go to work. I was armed with reporter notebooks, pens, and a camera; and with books, paper clips, markers, and chalk.
Sure, at town hall, there were some contentious debates and angry constituents. I remember the building of an addition to the library being particularly divisive. In school, I met with parents upset about their child’s progress and even had to defend a popular short story anthology against a group that wanted it banned. (The book won.)
The town I wrote about was Newtown, CT , a sleepy suburb made famous for the horrific school shooting in 2012. I taught in New Jersey, in the city of Newark and the town of South Orange.
Below appears in today’s New York Times:
TO OUR FALLEN COLLEAGUES
These dedicated employees of the Capital Gazette lost their lives on Thursday serving their community. The Times Editorial Board has urged lawmakers to take action to prevent such tragedies: strengthen background checks, take guns away from stalkers and domestic abusers, enact red-flag laws and ban assault weapons. Such moves are still needed. But today we honor these men and women for the sacrifice they made in the name of a free press. They lost their lives for printing the truth.
Please support your local media. Their work is vital, and as this week’s events show, the stakes are high.
Without gun control, anyone who disagrees with you, who suffers from mental illness, who just is in the mood, can purchase a gun and create an instant tragedy.
It’s been 20 years since Columbine. Isn’t it time to say enough? A local press provides information to communities; they are as vital as national and international news organizations. Education and press are backbones of Democracy. I’ve been writing about gun control a lot; I sure would love to retire the subject.