An act of violence against all of us

Ironically, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, had the most succinct, most important thing to say in the aftermath of the murder Thursday of five journalists at the Annapolis Capital Gazette.

“A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American,” she wrote in a tweet.

That is exactly right. Journalists — like schoolteachers and like members of Congress, who have also been targeted by disturbed men with guns — perform a critical function in our democracy.

We agree with Thomas Jefferson, who, talking about the “force of public opinion” and the importance of giving it expression, said, “The only security of all is in a free press.”

We rely on our public democratic institutions — the courts, the police, the elected representatives, the executive heads of government — to run our country according to its values and its Constitution. But we rely on the private press to expose corruption within those institutions.

Others across the country also issued statements of grief and support:

“This shooting is a tragic reminder that reporters — both in the field and in the newsroom — are at risk for violence from a variety of sources. Journalism is a dangerous job filled with risks that can turn lethal with little notice. We call on those who use hateful rhetoric to criticize, intimidate and incite violence against journalists for their own political gain to pause and reflect on the damage they do to human beings, their families and their communities.”

— Andrea Edney, President of the National Press Club

“We are proud to stand with them as journalists today. Their efforts and dedication while dealing with the death of five colleagues was, and is, courageous. Freedom of the press and our position as watchdog to the community are more important now than ever. It allows everyone to know that they have someone looking out for them.”

— John Bednarowski, president of Associated Press Sports Editors

“We are horrified and devastated and we deeply mourn the tragic and unimaginable loss of Rob, Gerald, John, Wendi and Rebecca. We honor their humanity, their work, their selfless public service and now, with utter sadness, their sacrifice in pursuit of our collective mission, values and purpose.

“May we also convey our respect and admiration for the courageous, deeply moving and inspirational example you have all shown by, somehow, carrying on that mission and serving your readers in the midst of such personal loss and horror.”

— The New York State Associated Press Association in a letter to the newspaper’s employees

The paper itself on its editorial page [June 29] made a powerful statement, printing a mostly blank page with a few sentences near the bottom.

“Today, we are speechless,” the statement began.

It listed the names of the five journalists who were murdered. Then it said this: “Tomorrow, this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they be better citizens.”

To anyone surprised that the newspaper’s employees managed to keep working through this horrific event, one of the reporters, Chase Cook, summed up their attitude: “Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” he said.

That is an attitude among journalists — the news will be reported, even in the face of bullets — that should make every American proud.

An attack on journalists is an attack on every American, and we hope, as the country goes forward from this terrible event, that every American takes that to heart.

The Post Star