Newsroom security is a big worry among journalists in the wake of the Islamic terrorist attack that killed 10 Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris Tuesday, but it's not a new issue in this country.
"Because I was working in a North Carolina newsroom at the time, this week's Paris massacre immediately made me think of the 1988 hostage-taking at the Lumberton newspaper — no casualties there, thank goodness. But 21 people died in the infamous Los Angeles Times bombing of 1910 and there must be other examples," said Frostburg State University English professor Andy Duncan in Maryland.
Duncan's comments came in response to a question — do you want to be armed? — posed by this writer on a list-serv hosted by Investigative Reporters and Editors at the University of Missouri. Dozens of journalists around the country responded on the IRE list-serv and to the same question to a journalist group on LinkedIn.
Most representative of the latter was this response
(from the far edge of the GUNZ IZ ICKY crowd
) from the BBC's Fiona Graham, who covers technology in business: "This is quite possibly the most bizarre and horrifying reaction I've seen thus far to the terrible events in Paris. It blows my mind that you would even contemplate this."
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Matthew Leonard, an editor at WXXI radio and television in Rochester, N.Y., who said he "just had very ‘spirited’ discussion with our president and CEO over the lack of a basic layer of fob-entry security to the floor that houses our newsroom and radio area."
(someone who sort of gets it
) said he worries because "we have nice people on reception, but otherwise we’re essentially an open building as of this moment and nothing to slow down a determined intruder for one second."
More typical among the responses was this from Radio Television Digital News Association Executive Director Mike Cavender who told the Washington Examiner that he has "spoken to a couple organizations that have talked about increasing their own security, whether it be their building or environment. There’s no question that it’s certainly heightened a bit."
Still, Cavender said, "I’m not sure additionally what more we can do aside from make it clear both to the media and the world that we stand with those who believe that freedom of expression is not going to be deterred even in the face of such horrific actions as occurred [in Paris].”
Similarly, David Cuillier, the immediate past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said he has "read on chat boards should we have more armed guards, should we allow reporters to carry weapons in the office, but I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of that happening.”
Many of the respondents expressed doubt that allowing journalists to carry concealed handguns would provide any protection against trained assailants armed with AK-47 assault rifles, as were the Paris attackers.
Dan Armstrong, a New York-based researcher for Forbes and the Economist, disagreed, saying "yes, a handgun is no match for a Kalashnikov, but it's probably better than being unarmed, especially if the handgun is concealed from the person wielding the Kalashnikov. A confrontation could go either way, and I imagine most of us will pick the outcome that matches our pre-existing point of view."
(Ooh! That's hitting below the belt, Mr. Armstrong
For Darrell Todd, owner of the Pulaski County, Ark., Daily News, the bottom line is a constitutional one: "Those of us who value the First Amendment need to remember that the Second Amendment is also in the Constitution. If a reporter wants to own a weapon, it's his or her own business, and nobody else's." (Sadly, someone who has confused the act of self defense with the right of self defense. It's not about being allowed to have guns. It's "If you expect trouble bring your gun. Bring your friends with all their guns."