Sometime between the evening of Dec. 26 and the morning of Dec. 27 a rock found its way inside the office of the Livingston County News, leaving a softball-size hole in the building’s large front window.
Passersby discovered the broken window Sunday morning while walking their dog and flagged down a Geneseo Police Officer to report what they saw. Inside the building, the rock lay among shards of glass in the front of the office.
A week later the investigation remains open. The incident is being treated by police as criminal mischief, which state penal law defines as a person intentionally damaging the property of another. The charge, depending on the extent of the damage and other conditions, can reach felony levels.
It is not certain if an individual threw the rock at our window intentionally or if something else happened. The newspaper had not been subjected to threats, complaints or people expressing displeasure with any recent stories.
But at a time when society is polarized by any number of issues it’s hard not to conclude, even if only emotionally, that the vandalism was an intentional act.
If true, it is also a cowardly act.
The damage represents more than an attack on the newspaper. It is an attack on a small business dedicated to providing news and information to the community of Livingston County.
It is an attack on the small businessman who owns the building and has had to repair the damage.
And it is an attack on the quality of life of a community that takes pride in being a welcoming place for all.
We are heartened that the passersby, upon seeing the damage, took action. They – and others who contacted us after seeing the damage on their own walks – reinforce what we know about the positive attributes of our caring, compassionate community.
It is that community that has been at the heart of everything we do.
In our first edition on May 4, 1989, the editor acknowledged that there will be bad news along with the good, there would be controversy, and sorrow, but that those reports would also be balanced with news that is joyful, hopeful and highlights the positive aspects of our community. A diverse county like Livingston County demands diversity in its news.
The editorial in that first edition also said that while we may not always agree what is reported, we would always agree to talk – and listen. That is something that we have adhered to for more than 30 years. When corrections or clarifications are warranted, they are made. And sometimes those conversations lead to additional stories and broader perspective in our reporting.
That is what happens in strong communities. People talk, even if they disagree.
If the rock was specifically intended for the newspaper, it is also a reminder of how dangerous the profession has become.
Such organizations as the United Nations, World Press Institute and others have called journalism one of the world’s most dangerous professions.
That’s not something you think about when you’ve devoted a career to community journalism. We live, work and play in the communities we report about. We shop at local stores, eat at local restaurants, and care about the well-being of our communities. The worst we might experience is a loud complaint in the dairy aisle of the local grocery story, an angry customer raising a voice in the office or on the phone, or being cursed at by the governor when asking a question he didn’t like.
We expect journalists to face danger when they venture into far away war zones, or work in places such as China, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – nations that continue to be among the biggest jailers of journalists in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual survey.
Yet in the United States in 2020, around 300 journalists were assaulted, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
The is an unprecedented number, the report said.
During protests in Buffalo and Rochester last fall, some reporters and camermen were accompanied by security guards to protect them during volatile situations.
No one was injured in the LCN’s rock incident. It may not be as severe as the life-threatening scenarios some journalists are faced with, but it is still an attack – on the profession, on a small business, a small businessman and our community.
There is no place for such attacks in our society. No one benefits. They accomplish nothing.
Whatever led to the rock-throwing incident, we do not know. Whatever message the presumed rock thrower sought to express goes unheard – they did not respect the newspaper or community enough to seek out a conversation and a productive resolution.