By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
I haven’t spoken about it publicly before, but even here in our sleepy little Laguna Madre community, I’ve faced threats, harassment and the intense emotions of incredibly angry people as a result of my reporting.
I’ve had people call our office lines to yell at me and tell me I’m dishonest and bad and should be ashamed of myself. I’ve had people call and make threats or try to intimidate me.
I’ve had people screaming and banging on the plate glass door of my office in the dark of night when I couldn’t tell who was outside because of the way the fluorescent lights reflected on the door glass. I’ve had a man walk into my office and threaten to shoot police officers because we weren’t reporting his allegations fast enough for his liking.
And every time something like that happens my thoughts begin to race. The police station is only two blocks away. If this escalates, will I be able to call for help? Will they get here in time? How long will the glass in the door hold? How angry is this person going to get? Are they going to get physical?
We reported the man who threatened to shoot police officers. And then we reported on it for the paper. But, that was the only incident that made it into the pages of the PRESS as a news story.
Another man, whose anger scared me enough to ask the police if they could increase their courtesy patrols in my neighborhood for a couple of days? That didn’t make it into the paper. But the fear he evoked stayed with me for a while.
And the woman who wouldn’t stop yelling at me from the other side of the door, demanding to be let in so she could keep yelling? That didn’t make it into the paper, either.
Neither did the fact that I ended up calling the police later that night to make sure I was safe as I locked up and left the building. However, I was too embarrassed to take them up on their offer to escort me all the way home. Too embarrassed that I felt that afraid.
But the thing is, I may have been embarrassed to be that afraid, but I wasn’t necessarily wrong to be afraid in any of those instances. Because people can snap. And you can’t always tell if someone is only going to yell at you or if they’re going to try to hurt you.
I lost five industry colleagues last Thursday. I never met any of them, and prior to Thursday, I never even knew of their publication. They were my colleagues nonetheless.
A week later, we now have a fairly good insight into what motivated the gunman to storm the newsroom of the Annapolis Capital Gazette and murder those five journalists. He had a long-held grudge against the paper, its reporters and their work. He was angry. That anger festered and turned deadly. And in so doing, his actions made concrete a fear I’ve been holding at bay for a long time.
When you have numerous elected officials and other public personalities constantly perpetuating the idea of “fake news,” and of journalists as an enemy to be harmed, eventually somebody is going to take those sentiments to heart.
We’ve seen exactly that happen in Annapolis. But, like many of my media colleagues have tried to reiterate in the days since the shooting, journalists are not your enemy.
My heart is so broken right now. Yet, I am also determined to stand fast with my colleagues at the Capital Gazette and around the country who work tirelessly to do this job.
God rest those journalists who were killed.
Editor’s Note: This editorial was originally published on social media the day of the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. It has been edited for clarity and updated to reflect the release of new information in the week since.
Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.