Professionalism of slain newspaper employees recalled
Four journalists and a sales assistant were killed Thursday in a shooting at a Maryland newspaper. Authorities said the gunman entered the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and “looked for his victims.” The employees killed were Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters, police said.
Gerald Fischman, the editorial page editor at the Capital Gazette, was an “old-fashioned journalist,” a former editor of the paper said.
Steve Gunn remembered Fischman as “the master of AP style” who “made sure everything was just right.”
“He was famous for working long days and being very precise in his language and always making sure the editorial page reflected the heart of the newspaper,” Gunn said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Fischman had worked at the paper for 26 years.
Reporters and others who knew Fischman told the Baltimore Sun he was quirky, smart and capable of putting local politicians on guard.
“When I sat for my endorsement interviews in 2010, he made it clear to me it was to be earned and by no means was guaranteed,” former two-term Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit told the newspaper. “He asked tough questions and exposed every weakness in my legislative record. He treated council races like they were presidential races.”
Journalist Rob Hiaasen’s family is “devastated” by his death, said his brother, author Carl Hiaasen.
Carl Hiaasen, a prolific novelist and a longtime columnist for the Miami Herald, confirmed that his brother, also a columnist and an editor, was one of the Annapolis victims.
In a brief phone call with The Associated Press, Carl Hiaasen said his family “was devastated beyond words” by the senseless killing of his brother at The Capital Gazette.
“He was the most remarkable person. So gifted and talented and dedicated to journalism,” he said, his voice choked with emotion.
Saying he was too wracked with grief to speak further, Hiaasen referred an AP reporter to something he had just posted to his Facebook page, describing Rob as one of the most “gentle and funny people I’ve ever known.”
Gunn, the former Capital Gazette editor, said Rob Hiaasen was a “gifted editor who had an aura of an artist around him who made people want to make journalism a beautiful craft.”
John McNamara was a longtime employee of the newspaper who had worked as a sports writer and copy editor and moved more recently to a weekly publication, the Bowie Blade-News, colleague David Broughton said.
Broughton, the paper’s sports editor, said he had worked with McNamara since 1994 and sat in a neighboring cubicle.
“I could hear his conversations (at the newspaper),” said Broughton. He was just a really thoughtful guy and a very intellectual guy. He could have an intelligent conversation about anything, whether it was politics or travel or English literature.”
McNamara was an avid basketball player with a self-deprecating sense of humor and bellowing laugh who had married his college sweetheart, Broughton said.
“He often said that marrying her was his greatest accomplishment,” Broughton said.
Gunn said McNamara was workmanlike – “classic come to work and tell me what I need to do.”
Rebecca Smith was a sales assistant at the Capital Gazette.
Her boss, Capital Gazette advertising director Marty Padden, described her as a thoughtful person who made sure the sales office ran smoothly.
“She was kind and considerate, and willing to help when needed. She seemed to really enjoy to be working in the media business,” Padden told The Baltimore Sun.
Kelli Peleska, who played softball with Smith’s fiance, said Smith attended games and traveled to tournaments with the team.
“She was the absolute most beautiful person. The biggest heart and a great loss to this world,” Peleska said Thursday night.
Special publications editor Wendi Winters was “the heart of the newspaper,” Gunn said.
Winters was passionate about serving the community and was a role model for younger journalists, he recalled.
“She was in many ways the best part of the newspaper in that she cared so much about the city,” he said.
The Sun reported the 65-year-old mother of four moved to Maryland 20 years ago after a career in fashion and public relations in New York.
“My mother was a wonderful woman and a fantastic reporter,” daughter Winters Geimer told the newspaper. “Her life was a gift to everyone who knew her and the world will not be the same without her. We are grieving and trying to make sure all of us can be together to celebrate the life of our mother.”
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