June 29, 2018

When newsrooms cover tragedies in their communities, other newsrooms almost always send them food, care packages and notes. It’s a simple gesture and a sign of solidarity.

That's happening again after five were killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

But on Friday, journalists at several local newsrooms shared on Twitter that this time, support also came from the community.

Katherine Lee, a web editor at the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, got into work on Friday morning at about 8:30. At 9, two dozen donuts showed up. The envelope said “with appreciation,” and the note inside read “for the people who put out the newspaper every #*!@ day!”

“I just started crying, to be honest,” Lee said.

In New Orleans, journalists at The Times-Picayune and The Advocate got bagels Friday morning, and The Lens and Baton Rouge’s The Advocate got pizza, courtesy of Scott Sternberg, general counsel to the Louisiana Press Association. He saw the suggestion of sending pizza to newsrooms in a listserv Friday morning.

“This was pretty unexpected,” said Times-Picayune editor Mark Lorando. “I think people in the newsroom were pretty touched by this.”

There’s so much rancor and hyperpartisan anger right now, including toward local journalists, Lorando said. He tries, in print and in person, to explain the mission of local news.

“We are a part of this community. We’ve been here for 181 years,” he said. “We’re talking about whether the pumps are working and whether the neighborhoods are safe.”

Sternberg worked at the Times-Picayune as an intern, and he remembers how people came into the newsroom with ideas, compliments and complaints.

“The concept that one of those people could walk into the newsroom with a shotgun, it’s beyond words,” he said. “It’s a place where people walk in all the time.”

Sternberg included a note with the bagels he sent. It read: “What you do matters.”

In Lincoln, Nebraska, reporter Chris Dunker's day started with a threatening Facebook message to the newsroom.

A few hours later, someone from the front desk walked back with two dozen cookies warm cookies from a local shop.

The note read: “Team LJS, you are appreciated, you are respected, you are invaluable, we need you, we are with you, you are never alone, thank you for all you do. – The Lincoln community”

Dunker thinks the newspaper does have support in the community.

“But it’s nice to know that when a tragedy happens a thousand miles from here, that people recognize the valuable work that we do and send a little gesture just to remind us of that, that we are part of the community,” he said.

If your newsroom received a gesture like this today from the community, send us an image or a tweet and we’ll share it below.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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