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Newsrooms Attract Psychos

Newsrooms Attract Psychos

Decided to wait a couple of days before weighing in on the murders at the Capital Gazette.

I worried that it would seem self-serving to lament this terrible, bloody incident just because the victims were journalists. 

But you know what? The more I think about it, the more surprising it seems that something like this hasn’t happened before.

After all, newspapers attract psychos.

Every single journalist I know has a story about a freak who badgered, stalked, harassed or threatened him or her. Many never bothered to tell a superior, let alone law enforcement.

I suspect that's going to change. And it should.

But here’s something most people don’t know about newspaper reporters: They're fearless. They aren’t crybabies. And they don't worry excessively about their own safety.

They figure crazies just come with the job. 

There were about 20 of us who worked in The Virginian-Pilot’s Beacon office in the ‘80s and ‘90s. For a while we had no security at our little Virginia Beach outpost. An assortment of colorful people dropped in every day, including at least one clinically insane guy.

What if he really snaps we’d ask each other, whenever this deeply disturbed character made an appearance. The Beacon had just one door and the windows didn't open. We knew we’d be trapped if he drew a gun and opened fire. 

Later, when I was working in The Pilot's more secure Norfolk office, I had a man pestering me by phone to read his unpublished novel. 

I put him off. 

Eventually he left a self-published book for me with The Pilot’s security guards. Turned out to be a thriller about the revenge murder of a newspaperwoman who refused to read another writer’s manuscript.

That got my attention. Still, I can't remember reporting him to anyone. 

There was another kook who called my office phone almost every night for years at about 3 a.m. to leave obscene messages that almost always began “You stupid c#$%.”

He was still at it when I left the paper last December. 

My point? Journalists upset people. Some of those folks are unhinged. Some are obsessed with a single nutty issue and become angry and aggressive when a reporter tells them they’re not interested in writing about it. 

Still others become enraged when newspapers do write about them and tell the truth.

That seems to be what happened in Maryland.

After the murders at the Capital Gazette, reporters, editors and law enforcement are more likely to take these nut cases seriously.

It’s time.

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America The Beautiful

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