This isn't a typical Plastics News viewpoint column. Usually we comment on news and trends aimed specifically at our plastics industry readers.
This week, we're standing with our colleagues at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md.
Let me explain why with a personal story.
I love newsprint and ink. I earned my first dollar delivering The Cleveland Press when I was 10, filling in on my older brother's paper route. By that point I was already a regular newspaper reader. I remember spreading out the afternoon paper on the living room floor, reading Dick Feagler's column, the sports page and the comics.
Some of my favorite high school memories involved working for the newspaper, the Spotlight. I decided to major in journalism in college and pay for the privilege of being abused by professors if I spelled someone's name wrong (which was an automatic F).
I got my first paying job writing for a newspaper in 1983. I was ridiculously underpaid, but I was writing for a newspaper. It was glorious. I worked for daily papers for eight years before I joined Plastics News. The work here was different, because of the topics and the specialized audience, but it didn't take me too long to adapt. We've always considered Plastics News to be a newspaper, as opposed to a trade magazine.
My story is typical for our editorial team. Most of the reporters and editors at Plastics News polished their skills at daily newspapers. It's a great training ground for journalists. On a daily, you learn to write and edit quickly, clearly and accurately.
Because of our daily newspaper experiences, last month's story about a gunman who killed five people and injured two others at a Maryland newspaper really hit home. It's a scenario we can all imagine. On top of that, the victims' stories all sound so familiar to us that we found it easy to relate. And we could also identify with the reaction from their coworkers, who put aside their grieving for a few hours and published a newspaper. That was amazing work, and it's exactly what anyone with a background in newspapers would do.
In the days that followed, I read and heard from many in the media about the importance of supporting journalism, especially local newspapers like the Capital Gazette. I wholeheartedly agree. If you know anything about your city council, school district budget, crime and courts, it's probably thanks to your local newspaper.
Maybe you criticize the newspaper from time to time, it's not that unusual. I may love newspapers and respect the work that reporters and editors do every day, but I know that some people like to complain about their own paper being unfit to wrap fish. We laugh all the time when we see misinformation about plastics published in community newspapers. No one said newspapers are perfect.
Many people tried to put the Maryland shooting into the context of the big national debate on journalism, where politicians on both sides argue about accuracy and bias. Was the gunman inspired to shoot up a newsroom by a president who clearly enjoys calling media outlets fake news and the enemy of the state? Eventually we may find out if there's any connection. For now it's unproven, and unfortunate.
This much is clear: Criticism of the media goes with the job, but violence and murder clearly are unacceptable. So today we're standing by our colleagues around the world who are working hard to inform and educate readers.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.