|Uvalde Leader-News Editor-Publisher Craig Garnett speaks to the Oklahoma Press Association.|
Last year’s shooting of 19 students at Robb Elementary School in Uvande, Texas, tested the relationships that the twice-weekly Uvalde Leader-News had in its newsroom and local authorities. It strengthened the first and broke the second, Editor-Publisher Craig Garnett said at the state press association convention in Oklahoma, his native state, this month.
“Our reporter, Kimberly Rubio, was at her desk that morning in the newsroom. She had two children at Robb, and she began to get a little nervous,” Garnett recalled. Then Rubio learned that her 10-year-old daughter had been killed, Rod Serfoss reports for Oklahoma Publisher.
“Our newsroom consists of four people – three of them women – and Kimberly Rubio had been with us for 10 years,” Garnett said. “She brought her Lexy, who was killed, to our office when she was five days old. The relationship in our newsroom is extremely close. All three women were shaken to the core. They cried for the first two weeks in between writing – and I don’t know how they did it. They would go, then have a bad spell, and then gather themselves and return to their computer – because that is just what you do.”
By the end of May 24, 2022, the day of the shooting, “The school and police agencies that the newspaper had a good relationship with all clammed up,” Garnett said. “A year later we still can’t get answers. We have filed about 10 to 15 requests with the school district and still can’t get any answers. The shooter needed help from the school and didn’t get it. They just expelled him. The school district failed this young man. We now have a completely antagonistic relationship with the school district. They won’t answer our phone calls, and only respond to half of our text messages. They feel like we are out to get them – and we are. They didn’t do their job.”
But Garnett added, “We failed as a newspaper by not looking more closely at the school district. It was easier for them to get rid of kids than to help them.”
Asked how to cover such an event, Garnett replied, “I don’t know.”