Kathy Best, the editor of the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic newspapers in Montana, recalled that when a reporter wrote about a man who had pleaded guilty to intimidating a library employee, the man “created websites in the reporter’s name, with a photo of a tombstone.”
“When your newspaper is covering a community, it’s a much more intimate relationship that you have with readers,” Ms. Best added. “And they let you know, up close and personal, when they’re unhappy with what you do.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists is known more for tracking press freedom around the world, but last year, with political divisions deepening and President Trump labeling the news media the “enemy of the American people,” it began documenting attacks on journalists in the United States. Since then, the organization has documented physical violence directed at more than 60 journalists, especially those covering protests.
In an article published Friday, Kyle Pope, the editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote about his experience as an editor of a weekly in Manhattan. A disgruntled woman, whom Mr. Pope described as a “neighborhood eccentric,” was upset about an article describing her as a hoarder who had threatened her neighbors.
Before the article was published, the woman showed up at the offices, he wrote, “angry and incoherent and demanding to speak to our reporter.” The situation was defused without violence, as most are across the country, but in the wake of Thursday’s shooting, it gave Mr. Pope pause.
“Local newsrooms are accessible for a reason — it’s part of what makes them integral to the life of their communities,” Mr. Pope wrote. “People come in to buy ads. Readers bring in photos of their kids’ sports teams. Tipsters drop by with gossip.
“It is heartbreaking, but necessary, to recognize that the openness that defines local news likely carries too high a risk; local newsrooms, at least for now, may have no choice but to fortify themselves.”