Last week, I was meeting with Vicki Young from the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, but was otherwise alone in our beautiful, historic building.
A man came in, upset about an article that ran in last week’s Dundalk Eagle. As I normally do, I gave him my card and asked him to write me a letter to the editor. We love reader feedback, even when it’s negative. We are a community paper and it’s our job to lift up your voices.
The man became belligerent, started screaming extremely loudly at me, and calling me “racist against white people.” (Not that it matters, but I am, in fact, Caucasian.) He told me that The Eagle was garbage, and then became threatening.
I stayed seated, and asked calmly for him to lower his voice. I asked repeatedly, and had to ask him to leave the office. I kept repeating myself, only raising my voice (but not my tone) to be heard over his screams. He became more upset, and I finally said, “Sir, I’m not afraid of you. But you need to leave my office, or I’m going to call the police.”
He said to go ahead and call the police, so I did. I was on the phone with 911 for six minutes, and it took Baltimore County Police more than 40 minutes to respond to the scene. The man lurked outside for awhile and eventually left on his bicycle.
We appreciate reader feedback, but just one year ago journalists were shot and killed at their desks at the Annapolis Capital-Gazette. Years ago, our own publisher has been threatened with a makeshift explosive device. We have to take our safety seriously.
I don’t want this man to get in trouble. I don’t want to have to keep the doors locked. We don’t mind if people occasionally get angry with our work — conflict is an inherent part of fostering a marketplace of ideas and representing a community. But we have to take our safety — and yours — seriously.
I love community newspapers. And I love Dundalk. And even if that man had hurt me, I wouldn’t have been scared. I don’t scare easily, and I live my life in such a way that I’m proud of what I do, all day every day. I have worked hard to create that kind of life.
But you might see some extra security measures at our building. We hope you still feel welcome. And you’re welcome to write me or speak to me or our staff about anything in a respectful manner. We welcome it.
We haven’t figured out exactly who the man is, but the community has been helpful in providing suggestions about further safety measures. Whoever he is, I hope he writes us a letter, so that you can read it.
He deserves to be heard. Everyone does.
But we also deserve to be safe at work. I believe that both of those things can happen simultaneously, and I’ll keep working hard to make sure you all are heard.