Journalists are superheroes — everyone should know it.

I feel speechless. But there are things that need to be said.

Two editors and I sit in chairs rolled close so we can talk about a story I’m so excited to run.

We just figured out one more piece to add to the puzzle.

And then something hits home. A notification comes in.

My executive editor says it first — people have been shot at a newspaper building.

We immediately turn to the flatscreen televisions that line the wall of the newsroom.

I put my hand over my mouth, I don’t even gasp.

I know my face has to be white.

I get chills and tears fill my eyes.

News just broke — we don’t know why this happened or who did this yet.

Hours later there were answers — answers we got through hard-working journalists.

Five people dead.

Rob Hiaasen.

Gerald Fischman.

John McNamara.

Wendi Winters.

Rebecca Smith.

The Capital Gazette reported the suspect had a long-standing grudge against the newspaper. He had previously — and unsuccessfully — sued the paper for defamation.

Reporters at The Capital worked together and put out a paper the next day. I praise that hard work that was done in the midst of all of the emotions they must have been feeling.

I absolutely lose it when I get home from work while I watch the press conference.

Tears pour down my face — and it won’t be the first time tears pour after this.

Each time I see a tweet or story, I cry. And things don’t usually impact me like this. I haven’t had too much tragedy in my life. Normally one good cry and I’m over it.

But this — no.

This is insane.

Let me tell you who we are

I’m tired of people misunderstanding journalism.

We are not fake.

We do not make up lies.

We should NOT be the enemy of the people.

Those who aren’t journalists just don’t get how hard it is for us sometimes.

We get cussed out. We are told to our faces that we are not liked. We get hate mail, phone calls. We get trolled on social media. We get asked why we wrote that story.

We constantly argue with public officials who don’t want to tell us stuff — people whose salaries are PAID BY THE TAXPAYERS.

Our Carolinas regional editor Robyn Tomlin said it best in a column Friday: “I, myself, have had my tires slashed, my car keyed and have been called every name in the book. Even so, I’ve never truly felt unsafe. Unsettled maybe, but not unsafe. Until this week.”

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Don’t. Be. Mad. We. Shed. Light.

It’s simple — if we didn’t report, who would?

We tell the truth. Again, it’s simple — if we didn’t, we’d likely have a lawsuit against us for libel.

We uncover and report stories about all kinds of things — sex crimes against children that aren’t investigated properly, bacteria levels in the ocean, features on military veterans, armed robberies, murders, eating disorders.

It’s our job. We get paid to do it.

We get paid to take time to dig into things that other people may not have time for or necessarily know how to navigate and research.

I was trained to search public documents and find things.

I was trained to write fair and ethically and give every possible person a story involves the chance to tell his or her side. And because we do that DOES NOT mean we are putting our own personal opinion into a story.

Listen, I’ve got plenty of opinions. Plenty. But I choose to stay neutral — it’s a part of the career.

I don’t talk about my political views publicly. I just don’t.

I’m not an activist trying to push one side or the other. I’m simply presenting things that I’ve been told, I’ve uncovered, I’ve researched.

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The issue is people are ignorant to what we do and why we do what we do.

The issue is that we have a government that is trying to turn people away from and to hate the news media.

The issue is we are misunderstood for the reasons we push people for information.

We are your friends. We are not your enemy.

What we do matters. I’d hate to see what this world would look like without us journalists.

This is why I do it:

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And this:

Why I do it 2

Oh, and this:

I can’t forget this:

And I’ll sure as hell will never forget this:

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Oh, how thankful I am for all the mean girls

We rush into the nastiest bathroom at Waccamaw High School.

I’m furious because they laughed at me. The means girls — my friend group — they laughed as I stood up to them for talking about my friend behind her back.

The whole incident is a blur. I hope it’ll come back to me later.

I’m past the point of tears. But my friend — still crying.

A teacher follows us into the bathroom because we stormed off from the mean girls’ table, visibly upset.

I tell her what happened.

I tell her I finally did it. My ninth-grade, unsure-of-who-I-am-yet self just stood up to the mean girls at the lunch table where I used to sit — the table my friend and I stopped sitting at a week ago with the girls who we thought were our friends.

“F*ck ‘em,” the teacher tells us.

I’m 14. And I don’t hear that word much. But I knew what she meant.

Behind those two screw-what-they-say words, I knew the teacher was telling us we are worthy of a friend group who respects us, who is honest with us and didn’t have to talk badly about us. We are worthy of being in a friend group that wasn’t a constant competition to be part of.

The hardest part — that friend who I stood up for went back to the friend group months later, and I never talked to her again.

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The group of my middle school friends who I became close with after I started running cross country. This photo of us with squinty eyes was taken after a Saturday charity race in 2008.

Girls can be mean. Really mean. We all can be.

It took me until after college to realize I had points in my life when I had been a mean girl sometimes, too.

But it didn’t take me long to realize those mean girls weren’t the type of friends I wanted.

And it didn’t take me long to realize there are mean girls everywhere, no matter how old you get.

***

It wasn’t the first time one of the girls from a certain sorority at my college had pushed me while walking past at Pub House, the bar that was torn down and now where a shiny Starbucks sits.

But it was the last time I let it happen without saying anything, taking action.

So I take to Facebook — what else would a girl who wants to call people out do?

I write about being tired of that sorority bullying my friends and that hate never wins. And I use the sorority’s name in the post, too.

The funniest part — I’m a legacy of that sorority.

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My three college roommates and I stuck together, especially junior and senior years. We’re still close and get together at least once a year to celebrate all our our birthdays, which fall within two months. Shannon, Madeline, me and Casey at our favorite spot — El Cancun restaurant.

A few days later, I’m contacted by the dean’s office.

I freak out because I’m about to graduate and part of me worries these girls have come up with this elaborate story to get me in trouble.

I walk into the dean’s office, my heart beating.

But I had nothing to worry about — it was the best conversation I could’ve hoped for.

It’s like she said without flat out saying that she understood my side.

I could tell she knew it was silly, high school-like drama — drama I knew I was too old for.

She didn’t want me leaving the university, graduating in bad spirits.

And I didn’t.

Great things happened to me before I graduated, things two years later I started to realize happened to reassure me the mean girls were calling me a whore just to be mean and pushing me around to belittle me.

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I presented my undergraduate research on discrimination against women in the workplace at SOURCE in 2016. The research was a project in one of my favorite classes — multimedia reporting of public issues.

I presented my undergraduate research project at a conference — a project on discrimination against women in the workplace. And I won my first ever award — the Terry Plumb Journalism Award for general reporting after covering a range of topics during my internship at The Herald in Rock Hill.

The great things were a push of encouragement, a you’ve-got-this reminder as I went into my first job as a journalist.

***

Now having shared the two worst bullying incidents I’ve been through, and if you mean gals have even read this far or at all, I’d like to thank all of the mean girls.

Thank you for making me strong enough to push through the hurt of your meanness.

Thank you for bullying me so in turn I could be my own advocate, telling myself and encouraging myself that all you said bad about me wasn’t true.

Thank you for being the subject in this it-was-hell-but-it-gets-better blog — a blog I hope will touch others who have struggled with the same things.

Thank you for doubting me because it feels so great to prove you wrong.

And most of all, thank you to my ex-friend group who abandoned me in ninth grade because you taught me how to be an independent, real, down-to-earth person. You all taught me what kind of friends I do want and what kind of friends I don’t want. You taught me to be a person who understands what really is key to making a quality life — humility, understanding and listening others’ brokenness, accepting people as they come.

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A big laugh at our old “neighbs” house. We always brought the moose blanket along.