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Opinion: Seeking the truth, no matter the cost

On the front page today we declare, in the boldest fashion we know how, the truth that motivates every journalist who works at the Mail Tribune and every one of our colleagues across the country and the world:

JOURNALISM MATTERS.

On the 242nd anniversary of America’s declaration of independence against a tyrannical king, we celebrate the freedom of the press our founding fathers guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights that followed.

Six days after the slayings of our fellow journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, we remember just how precious this freedom is, and that it can come with a terrible cost.

We bet most journalists reacted as we did when we heard the news: We were horrified. We mourned the loss to their families and the industry. And we swallowed hard, knowing that newsroom could just as easily have been ours.

We have received death threats. We’ve been informed we’re going to burn in a lake of fire. We’ve been insulted, harangued and told we’re “going to pay” for what we’ve written. One person’s emails were so personally threatening the local police paid him a visit, and, thankfully, the emails have stopped.

We used to think such people were cowardly bullies who hid behind their computer screens rather than acting on their threats.

But that wasn’t the case at the Capital Gazette on June 28, when a man who had tried unsuccessfully to sue the paper over coverage of a criminal harassment plea opened fire, killing five before police rushed in and found him hiding under a desk in the newsroom.

While these slayings have put all newsrooms on heightened alert, they’ve also reinforced journalists’ resolve to stay true to our calling: To seek truth and report it, no matter what the cost.

Why does journalism matter so much? “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. We can’t say it any better.

Journalists will not be bullied by those who would silence us. On the day of the Annapolis shooting, Capital Gazette reporters and editors who had just lost their colleagues somehow put aside their shock and grief to do their jobs. They would not let Jarrod Ramos win.

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

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