How a Maryland paper covered a mass shooting in its own newsroom
Twitter/@capgaznews(ANNAPOLIS, Maryland) — The blood was fresh on the newsroom floor and the grief of its staff raw, but the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, promised it would publish a newspaper on Friday. Hours later, freshly printed papers were on doorsteps around coastal Maryland.
Just hours after a gunman stormed the newspaper killing five people and wounding several, the surviving members of its staff said they were determined not to allow the unfathomable violence to stop them from the mission of keeping readers informed.
Today’s homepage featured obituaries of the five staff members who had been killed, as well as detailed coverage of the shooting itself. The victims were remembered by their colleagues in headlines as “Rob Hiaasen: A joyful stylist, a generous mentor;” “Gerald Fischman: Clever and quirky voice of a community newspaper;” “John McNamara: Sports reporting was his dream job;” “Wendi Winters: A prolific writer who chronicled her community;” and “Rebecca Smith: Recent hire loved spending time with family.”
Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting at the paper’s offices, its staff vowed to report on it.
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” Chase Cook, a reporter who covers the Maryland General Assembly for the paper, tweeted.
The newspaper’s Twitter account tweeted a photo of Friday’s cover, with the headline “5 shot dead at The Capital.” The cover also included photos of the five victims.
Even as the killer was carrying out his rampage at the newspaper, crime reporter Phil Davis was covering the tragic story from under his desk.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Davis tweeted.
The Capital Gazette is one of the nation’s oldest newspapers, founded by British journalist William Parks in 1727 as the Maryland Gazette.
In 1767, the Gazette made history when Anne Catharine Green took the helm of the paper, becoming the first woman newspaper publisher in the country.
The Gazette was also one of the first newspapers in the country to publish the Declaration of Independence.
The motive of the gunman in Thursday’s attack remains unclear, but if it was to put a chilling effect on the news-gathering operation, it clearly didn’t work.
Jimmy DeButts, a columnist and editor at the newspaper, said the tradition of aggressive journalism at the Gazette continues.
“We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community,” DeButts tweeted after the shooting.
“We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be,” DeButts tweeted.
And some people said the tragedy made them want to subscribe to the Gazette.
“I don’t live near there, but I’m subscribing to @capgaznews today. 99 cents for 4 weeks is a pretty great deal,” tweeted New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti.
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