Every Newspaper Reporter Knows Jarrod Ramos

Politics

Jarrod Ramos, the man who allegedly killed five staff members of the Annapolis Capital-Gazette, is sadly, terrifyingly typical, at least to anyone who ever worked at a newspaper of any size. Court records available online paint a picture of an angry misogynist of the classic type, the angry reader of the classic type, and the angry online presence of the newly classic type. Then, he picked up his shotgun and went for a ride.

The run-up was sad. The denouement is terrifying. The whole thing is typical.

It all starts on July 26, 2011, when Ramos pleaded guilty on a charge of criminal harassment. On duty was Eric Hartley of the Capital-Gazette. Five days later, he wrote this item under the regular feature, “Anne Arundel Report.”

From the court records:

The piece went on to detail the harassment in which Ramos engaged, predominantly online. The woman he was harassing believed that he somehow was involved in her having lost a job. Again, from Hartley’s courthouse account:

This kind of thing is the meat on which local newspapers feed. There are always stories to be found in the local courthouse, and Hartley was sharp enough to notice that there were larger issues to be explored in Ramos’s case. It’s one you put in your notebook, and then you put it in the paper, and feel good about how you did your job that day.

Anyone who’s ever worked at a newspaper in any department has a Jarrod Ramos story to tell.

Except for the fact that Jarrod Ramos was one of those readers who can’t let anything go. Anyone who has worked on a daily newspaper in any era is familiar with them, and the smaller the newspaper, the more intense the confrontation. Ramos sued the newspaper and Hartley, personally, for defamation. He represented himself pro se, which is rarely a good idea, as a variety of judges in the Maryland courts made clear to him.

At the motion hearing, Judge Lamasney probed the appellant to point out a single statement in the article that was actually false or to give a single example of how he had been harmed by the article. He could not do so. Judge Lamasney’s ruling was clear:

Judge Charles Moylan, Jr. of the Maryland Court of Public Appeals read these transcripts with interest and proceeded respectfully to pile on.

(Yes, even in a story like this one, BOTH SIDES!)

Ramos apparently then took to the electric Twitter machine to rage against his victim, Hartley, the newspaper, and Judge Moylan for a few months. Then he allegedly loaded his shotgun and went downtown.

The story of a shooter with a grudge against a newspaper is getting a lot of run, and it’s easy to see why. Anyone who’s ever worked at a newspaper in any department has a Jarrod Ramos story to tell—the ringing phone you don’t want to pick up, the letters with the alarming spelling, and, now, the many platforms of social media. Most of those people never pick up a gun. Jarrod Ramos did.

However, it’s essential, I believe, to take this story back to its origins—an angry misogynist who engaged in a vicious campaign of slander and harassment of a woman who just tried to be nice to him. Misogyny is the one thing that’s part of too many of these stories. Well, that and the guns.