Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

In the Face of Intimidation, the Work of Local Journalists Persists

Photo courtesy of Kristin Bauer
The Chronicle-Telegram faces backlash from local community members.

I can’t imagine Lorain County, or anywhere for that matter, without a newspaper. This past election cycle would not have been the same without the work of the Chronicle Telegram and The Oberlin Review. Local journalism has provided its centrality in a time of uncertainty for Ohioans. Readers are able to depend on reporters for basic information like candidate information, voting locations, and most importantly an objective account of recent events. 

The role of journalists is to produce news with the highest ethical standard possible. This means objectively defining events through key figures involved, dates, and significance. If a topic is pertinent to a community, journalists aim to express this as clearly as possible. I am fortunate enough to work in an area where reporters and editors do their best to serve their communities. 

There is no malicious intent or ulterior motive when journalists report on current events; to assume so insults the journalism industry itself. With the resurgence of the term “fake news” in 2016, there has been widespread distrust in the media. However, the contemporary context of this term involves fake information spread by those with ideological interests, often private groups or individuals. Newspaper publishers are often not the source of intentionally embellished or unfactual news. 

Journalists deserve assurance that they won’t receive unwarranted anger for doing their job. Across the country, journalists are faced with violence and intimidation for disseminating information and reporting. Over a year ago, Las Vegas Review Journal Reporter Jeff German was allegedly killed by a Clark County official for reporting on government corruption. Since 1992, 17 journalists have been killed in the U.S. due to their line of work. 

Recent events within Lorain County reflect the disrespect held towards local journalism in the United States. On Sept. 24, a The Chronicle Telegram reporter found a “brown paper food takeout bag, a bottle of lighter fluid and a manila envelope with the words ‘Bomb Don’t Touch’ written on it in red marker outside the main public entrance doors to the newspaper offices.” 

In reference to the bomb threat, Julie Wallace, managing editor of The Chronicle-Telegram, recalled, “The door where the individual put this fake bomb nobody uses on the weekends. Our reporter just happened to be walking out to leave to go to something else and just happened to walk out that door and went, ‘Oh crap. What’s this?’” 

After the reporter called 911, police, firefighters, and the Lorain County Bomb Squad arrived, and immediately examined the scene. Local streets near the office were shut down. Ultimately, officials concluded that there were no actual explosives. 

The following day, an Elyria Township man turned himself in to the Sheriff’s Office. He allegedly planted the fake bomb in response to The Chronicle-Telegram’s reporting on accusations against his family’s restaurant. 

These accusations were mentioned in an article The Chronicle-Telegram published April 26. It outlines the claims of an Elyria woman who filed a report to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission alleging racial discrimination and retaliation on the part of the owners of the Dinner Bell Drive-In of Elyria Township.  

It’s important to note that The Chronicle-Telegram was reporting on what the Elyria woman claimed, not that these events undoubtedly happened. A report to the Civil Rights Commission is a noteworthy event, especially when it involves a local business. This article provided contextualization of the Civil Rights Commission reporting process; the Elyria woman filed her claim six months after the initial incident, right before the deadlines for reporting the incident to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission would’ve passed. Additionally, the article outlined previous protests against the restaurant and past comments about the restaurant from the Elyria NAACP. By no means was it a biased and editorialized style of writing that aimed to harm the business owners. 

Threats, such as the one on Sept. 24, will never take away the impact of local journalism. Journalists are intertwined with their communities, forging deep connections with community members. 

“My people [Chronicle-Telegram writers] are going out and they’re covering City Council meetings and police incidents and reporting on the news for the local community,” Wallace said. “Real or fake, the intent [of the threat] was to scare my staff. You didn’t scare my staff, you angered my staff.”

Wallace’s anger is understandable for many other journalists. It reflects the exhaustion faced in reaction to continuous harassment. But violent efforts to suppress reporting are not effective.

Tomorrow morning, readers from Avon Lake to Wellington will read The Chronicle-Telegram. Every week, a student will pick up The Oberlin Review in their dorm lobby and a community member will read it over coffee at Slow Train Cafe. These are constants in weekly routines due to shared interests in local surroundings. Retaliation will never be rewarded with surrender, especially when journalism is so embedded into communities across the country.

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