Roseburg, Ore., holds a special place of affection for many of us at The Nevada Appeal and the mass shooting there last week leaves us heartbroken.
Along with a handful of other staffers, I moved from Roseburg to Carson City four years ago. Jeff Ackerman, who had been publisher of The Appeal, moved to our sister newspaper in Roseburg about a year later, after a long stint as publisher in Grass Valley, Calif.
It’s about a seven-hour drive from Carson City to Umpqua Community College, give or take a half hour, depending upon the semi traffic through the forest between Susanville and Shasta. I’ve driven it scores of times.
Umpqua Community College sits on a lovely hill, surrounded on three sides by the North Umpqua River. It’s a small campus where deer and wild turkey wander the park-like grounds. Just below the college the river has been dammed and a fish viewing station is a favorite place to watch huge salmon climbing the fish ladder.
On the west side of the campus, a new vineyard was planted about five years ago as part of an ambitious program to support the growing Oregon wine industry.
Roseburg, where I published the newspaper for 11 years, is half the size of Carson City; Umpqua Community College is a source of pride, a place where many civic activities are held and where many community education programs are offered.
It’s not a place where a 26-year-old from Torrance, Calif., should have disrupted the already difficult life for many in Roseburg.
Roseburg was a solid, growing, beautiful, middle-class community until environmental concerns about the timber industry left many without income or hope.
Government training for jobs that didn’t exist there was seen as part of the solution and the college dutifully provided the education that helped some find better lives.
This wandering narrative is personal. Two of my children attended UCC. At UCC I took classes, hosted concerts, attended functions, and served on the Foundation Board. I know the people now being interviewed by the national media.
The Roseburg News-Review, an afternoon newspaper, was near deadline when the shooting occurred. All available hands were mobilized. Pages were scrapped, reporters and photographers were sent, and the press start was delayed. The nrtoday.com website and News-Review Facebook page were frequently updated with whatever news could be had.
I followed the news like a reader. I couldn’t get enough information, quickly enough. Roseburg was not quickly accessible and reports for the first few hours, like with most national tragedies, were especially spotty.
The national reports were at least as confusing as the frenzied postings on 100s of Facebook pages. Ten dead, no 15, maybe 20, plus 20 or more injured. Gunman is down; no the gunman is dead. Roseburg is a Portland suburb; no, wait, it’s 200 miles from Portland. And, so it went.
In the heat of the moment people want to know is it over? Are my loved ones safe? The Internet provided a thousand voices, a great many of them wrong, but even professional reporters moved what they had and some of that was wrong. Emergency responders are focused on the moment and don’t need media bothering them.
The morning after I read a newspaper industry blog about the behavior of some media and the subsequent local outrage about it. Apparently, one young lady had tweeted about her experience at the time of the shooting and was immediately besieged with interview requests from national and international media. The world has changed.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be reviewing our emergency coverage in hopes it will never again be necessary here as it was during the 2011 shooting at IHOP. We’ll spend some time with emergency responders to see if we can learn how to better work with them during difficult moments.
And, we’ll hug our loved ones just a little tighter and pray for those who have lost friends and relatives during 10 senseless minutes at a beautiful place in Oregon.
Mark Raymond is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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