Journalists continue to put themselves “out there” for the sake of their craft, even as these days in the United States, antagonism from the highest official in the country — the president — continues to pile up.
Now, some journalists in Ohio have found themselves facing a steeper threat than that of rhetoric. Earlier this week, the office of The Circleville Herald received a letter that, while not having been made public, “contained content that appeared to be threats of physical harm towards the Circleville Herald and their staff” according to a statement from the Circleville Police Department.
Also contained in the letter were threats towards other residents of Pickaway County, which is where Circleville is located, and a claim that included with the letter was an amount of the dangerous drug Fentanyl. That opiate is extremely toxic to the point of necessitating safety precautions for medical professionals responding to overdoses.
There was an unknown substance included with the letter, but there was no immediate confirmation of what it was. The local police department handed over the letter to the Pickaway County Emergency Medical Authority for testing on Friday, July 6, after having retrieved it from the paper’s office the day before.
There is no word of anyone having been injured by the substance, whatever it was, and the specific names incorporated into the letter’s threats were not immediately released considering the open investigation into the matter.
Although there are no reports of injuries, that’s not the end of the story. It was just a week before the incident in Ohio that five people were killed after a gunman stormed the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Maryland. That gunman had a years-long issue with the paper that began after they covered a stalking case against him; however, the shooting incident did not occur in a vacuum.
The president of the United States, who is hardly someone whose statements go unnoticed, has repeatedly called much of the free press the “enemy of the American people.” The Maryland gunman no doubt heard of these statements, and they may have empowered him to pursue his aims and go after the paper he targeted in person. There is no immediate word as to a possible motive for the targeting of The Circleville Gazette, but whoever the sender of the letter is, you’d be going way out there to suggest they hadn’t heard of the president’s antagonism of the media.
Considering the broader context of the letter being sent to the Ohio paper in question, an editor at a sister paper of The Gazette commented:
‘The growing anti-media sentiment in America is becoming a serious crisis… You can ignore a stupid social media comment, but a menacing/deadly letter? Crazy.’
The Circleville Herald is a sister newspaper of ours. As and editor, I receive plenty of letters and complaints. There’s been the occasional bizarre/vague threat, but nothing serious like this.
You can ignore a stupid social media comment, but a menacing/deadly letter? Crazy.
— Tyler Buchanan (@Tylerjoelb) July 6, 2018
Despite the Capital Gazette shooting, Trump has not let up with his rhetoric against the media in the time since. At a recent rally in Montana, not very long after having offered remarks in honor of the Capital Gazette victims, he called most of the individuals who work in the media “really bad people.” That kind of language has at times serious consequences, but Trump does not seem to care.
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