Mentor, craftsman, friend: the victims of the Annapolis shooting

Rob Hiaasen, Capital Gazette assistant editor and columnist, was described by co-workers as a generous and dedicated mentor

Annapolis (United States) (AFP) – The five victims of the shooting Thursday at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland were described by colleagues as talented and knowledgeable local journalists and staff members who were committed to their work. 

Here are their profiles:

– Rob Hiaasen, 59 –

A wry and observant writer and editor and the brother of best-selling author Carl Hiaasen, he surprised colleagues a few years ago when he gave up his much-beloved feature writing to become an assistant editor at the Capital Gazette. 

But as his wife, Maria, told the paper — her 58th birthday fell on the day of her husband’s death — “he loved helping those young writers.”

Hiaasen joined The Baltimore Sun in 1993, then moved to the Capital Gazette in 2010, where co-workers said he was a generous and dedicated mentor. “He loved that newsroom,” his brother Carl told the Washington Post. “And he loved the idea of hometown, old-fashioned journalism.”

– Gerald Fischman, 61 –

A long-time editorial page editor, Fischman was an award-winning, 26-year veteran of the paper. Colleagues saw him as a shy but brilliant man, a fount of local and political arcana, and “the conscience and voice of the (paper),” whose editorials could be scathing but were “always exacting.”

Omnipresent in the newsroom — even spending nights there, and often communicating through Post-It notes found on desks the next morning — he was seen as a bit of a loner.

Fischman stunned his co-workers when he announced late in life that he was marrying an opera singer from Mongolia. Asked how they met, he said with a straight face, “I typed ‘Mongolian opera singer’ into a dating site.” He would not elaborate.

– John McNamara, 56 –

A sports writer, he was known for his versatility, invaluable in a small-city newsroom. “He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person,” former Capital Gazette sports editor Gerry Jackson told the paper.

McNamara had written two books about sports at the University of Maryland and was working on another about great Washington basketball players. Sports-writing, he said, was his dream job.

A movie buff, he wrote on Facebook recently about two biopics he had seen, one about kids’ TV host Mr. Rogers and the other on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “In these troubled times, when the forces of darkness seem to have gained the upper hand, it’s nice to be reminded that there is still justice and kindness in the world.”

– Wendi Winters, 65 –

A prolific writer who began her career in fashion and public relations in New York, Winters had worked part-time for the Capital Gazette for years covering community events before being hired full-time in 2013 and becoming an editor in 2016.

Her columns featured local youth, highlighted little-known local attractions and covered the area arts scene. A self-described “proud navy mother,” she often covered military angles in Annapolis, home to the US Naval Academy.

“Everyone in the city knew Wendi Winters,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley told the Washington Post. 

“She was at every event.”

– Rebecca Smith, 34 –

A sales assistant at the Capital Gazette, Smith was a recent hire. She had worked previously for a health care organization.

“She was the absolute most beautiful person,” a friend, Kelli Peleska, told the newspaper. “The biggest heart and a great loss to this world.”