EDITORIAL: There will be a 'damn paper'
Shortly after a gunman murdered five staffers at the Capital Gazette newspaper Thursday afternoon, a group of journalists who had escaped the massacre huddled in a nearby parking garage.
Their Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom across the street was a crime scene by then. They were grieving and no doubt in shock. There were hugs and consolation.
But they also had work to do, fueled by a determination that likely had seen them through tough times in our industry — papers closing across the country, shrinking budgets, staff cuts, the remaining journalists being asked to do more with less.
This was so much more, though.
So much worse.
Yet the mission remained.
As Gazette reporter Chase Cook posted on Twitter that evening:
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
They did, reportedly powering equipment off an editor’s truck in a garage.
And that paper will probably be remembered by journalists as one of the most heartbreaking editions ever published in the U.S.
At the top of A1 were photos of the victims, their own, above the bold headline “5 shot dead at The Capital.”
The story, which filled the rest of the page, was preceded by 10 bylines — 10 grieving survivors who contributed what they could to a report on their own tragedy.
Inside, the opinion page was blank, save a few words.
“Today, we are speechless. This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office.”
It then named the five victims: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
Below: “Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens."
That purpose will continue without Fischman, 61, who was the editorial page editor.
It will continue without Hiaasen, an assistant editor and columnist; McNamara, a reporter; Winters, an editor and columnist; and Smith, a sales assistant who had joined the paper just last year.
It will continue.
Their jobs were to keep you informed.
The Gazette’s newsroom is no different than the others remaining across the country. We're not your “enemy,” and we don’t produce “fake news.”
We seek the truth as best we can find it. We cite our sources, so anyone can verify our work. When we make mistakes, and we do, we fix them and notify readers right away.
Despite the chill we all felt last week, America's community journalists will continue to keep elected officials honest, cover the big high school game and tell people about the new restaurant downtown.
It’s our job to inform and connect our community.
Hell, yes. There’s going to be a paper tomorrow.