July 27, 2007

I’ve covered two things that involved brandished handguns. One of them was in my general direction. There have been other implied threats and tense moments, but the moment below stands out the most.

Hours after it happened, we made light of it in that way that some people fall into to cope. After the shooting today at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, I thought of it again. Although nothing bad happened to us, it’s not one of those instances where you look back at it and laugh. One of our reporters recently got a message from someone who had been holding a grudge for years. Occasionally, we journalists wonder if that irate caller actually will do something. But, despite what gets hurled at us, we journalists can’t let it stop us.

As Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook tweeted in the wake of the violence, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” 

Here is most of a post I made here 11 years ago when I worked in Petersburg. I made a few minor changes for clarification and truncated it because it referenced another post that you can’t read.

Because of the way my newspaper building is set up, people who want to physically submit letters to the editor or notices for lifestyles or anything directly newsroom-related have to come up winding creaky set of wooden stairs to get to the newsroom.

Today, a woman came up to submit a letter to the editor and request a story. She was in our police blotter a while ago after being arrested on charges of prostitution, solicitation and trespassing. She wanted to clear her name or something — we reporters weren’t really paying attention because our online editor talked to her first and then directed her to our managing editor, who was about to leave for the day.

Since the editor was ready to go home, the situation was a bit out of our control and it happened in my county, he was both trying to get rid of her shift her over to me. I wanted none of it, so I dialed a state police officer who was about to retire. I got his voice mail and started to leave a message.

Suddenly, she just started screaming for my editor to run her letter and write a story because she was not a prostitute. She asked a man in a car for $5, she said. He asked her what she’d do for it, she said. She was not a prostitute, she reiterated. Then she yelled, “I’m gonna go postal! I’ll make the massacre at Virginia Tech look like a kindergarten!” and stormed down the stairs.

Our editor followed her for a bit, which in retrospect was foolish, and when he returned told us that she almost knocked a customer down on her way out. He then called police.

As you may recall, this was about three months after the Tech shooting. She had a no-trespass order served against her. I don’t think I ever checked to see the outcome of her prostitution-related charges. We began locking the steel door between the newsroom and the rest of the building after that.

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