In my days of covering sports, I used to see a lot of parents get wound up at ball games and start yelling at the referees.
I have friends who officiate, and I can assure you that they really don’t want to make mistakes. They aren’t out there trying to screw up or draw attention to themselves. They do the best they can, but they are human and therefore aren’t perfect.
That didn’t stop parents from accusing the officials of trying to help one team win illegally.
And I saw an interesting trend: the children of those parents also started berating the officials. These kids might not even know the rules of the game (heck, for that matter neither did a lot of the parents), but it didn’t stop the little brats from joining in with the griping.
When I was playing Little League ball, I saw a lot of other teams’ games, too. If I had made some insult to the umpire during a game, my mom would have dragged me off somewhere private and whooped my backside for being disrespectful. And I knew she would, so I kept my mouth shut.
Instead, these parents are teaching their children to be disrespectful to authority figures (and then they’ll wonder why the kids are disrespectful to them at home).
For the past two years, every time Donald Trump sees a news story he doesn’t like about his campaign/presidency, disrespect flies out on social media with terms like “fake news.” Just because the article or TV clip doesn’t cover a preferred topic doesn’t mean the article is fake.
During his campaign, Trump didn’t like coverage in the Washington Post so he denied press credentials to his rallies. Two months ago Trump mused on Twitter about taking away all reporters’ media credentials, seemingly interfering with our ability to exercise our First Amendment right to a free press.
Has this antagonistic attitude toward the media had an impact on his followers? You betcha.
Over the past two years I’ve found myself having to defend my occupation to my own friends and family because of things that Trump has said.
No, being a journalist has never been rainbows and hugs. There have always been folks who dislike a particular story that shows up in the paper — especially if they are in it. Some folks have called to demand I not run their arrest report in print. I said no; if they don’t want to show up in the arrests, then stop committing crimes like all the rest of us law-abiding people manage not to do.
Being a North Surry graduate, I was sometimes accused of being biased toward North in my stories. Then again, some folks from North Surry thought I had a grudge against my old school.
I’ve never had a person try to physically attack me over something I wrote, but I’ve always had my eye out for the possibility.
There is nervous laughter in the newsroom every time one of the front desk people buzz us: “Jeff, there’s someone in the lobby here to see you.”
“Does he look like he’s packing heat? Do I need Kevlar? If I die, Bill can have my computer monitor.”
We make jokes because guys are incapable of admitting even a trace of fear.
I did contact the sheriff once about a particular man who repeatedly blasted everything I wrote on our website and/or Facebook page.
It wasn’t anything he said about me or directed at me; instead it was because he made veiled threats toward others. He put on Facebook that if people didn’t like the laws that were being passed by local politicians, then they should pick up their guns and go after these politicians.
I don’t want to see some local mayor get shot because a cruel idiot used social media to whip some vulnerable person into a psychotic frenzy.
But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be me that gets shot.
I was only 12 years old when Ronnell Leverne Jackson burst into the building at Channel 45 and murdered William Norbert Rismiller, a sales manager for the then-independent station. Jackson also held a receptionist hostage for hours, saying how the station was spying on him through his TV set. WJTM changed its call sign to WNRW in honor of Rismiller.
At least then we had the luxury of brushing it off, saying the man obviously was a nutcase and that such a thing likely would never happen again.
Then a week ago, a gunman opened fire at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five people and gravely wounding several others.
I started my journalism career at The News on March 8, 1995. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 1995, there have been 1,609 journalists killed around the world. However, until this past week, only 12 of those came on U.S. soil.
With the shift in attitude toward reporters, I fear this could change and newspaper shootings could become as common as school shootings.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.