COLLEGE PARK (3/15/19) — University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism Dean Lucy A. Dalglish urged a Maryland Senate committee this week to support legislation that would memorialize five Capital Gazette staff members killed in an attack on their newsroom last year and also “reinforce the importance of journalism’s role in democracy.”
Dalglish, testifying in support of a joint resolution that would designate each June 28 as “Freedom of the Press Day” in Maryland, said the work of journalists around the world is difficult and dangerous, but rarely in the United States has it been deadly.
“We have sometimes become somewhat complacent about the relative safety in which American journalists work. They occasionally get jailed or beaten, it’s rare they lose their lives,” Dalglish told members of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Thursday in Annapolis. “Not so after June 28, when the Capital Gazette suffered an unspeakable loss.
“Murdered Merrill College alumni Gerald Fischman and John McNamara, Merrill adjunct lecturer Rob Hiaasen, and their colleagues Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith, contributed every day to one of the core institutions that make America different and a beacon of hope for so many around the world: community journalism.”
The Senate resolution, sponsored by Annapolis state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat, would add June 28 to the 16 official commemorative days, six months and one week that are already recognized in state law, according to legislative analysts. A hearing is scheduled next week for an identical resolution filed in the House of Delegates.
Dalglish said the commemorative day would serve as a reminder that “citizens must be able to count on quality, accurate, fair information from experienced journalists as they make decisions that we must all make in a democratic society.”
She also noted that amid increased hostility toward journalists, Merrill College has thrived. The fall 2018 freshman class grew by more than 50 percent over the previous year, and graduate student enrollment increased even more.
“Every time someone utters the words ‘fake news’ or ‘enemy of the people,’ another kid decides to be a journalist,” Dalglish told the committee. “Our students are telling us they want to hold the powerful accountable, they want to help the environment and enlighten their communities.
“They want to make this a better world.”
In response, Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the committee, called journalism “an important profession” and praised Merrill College for growing into a nationally recognized leader in journalism education.
The state legislature will adjourn for the year on April 8.