Newsroom massacre doesn’t stop the next day’s edition

Steve Schuh, James Wolfe
The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Less than a day after five of their colleagues were killed in the newsroom, staffers of The Capital Gazette put out Friday’s edition of the Annapolis newspaper, just as it had been published since 1727.

The bold headline was simple: “5 Shot dead at The Capital.” Above the words: photos of the five deceased newspaper employees.

That front page, written by grieving employees, made good on a promise that Chase Cook, a Capital Gazette reporter, tweeted in the hours after the shooting.

“I can tell you this: we are putting out a damned newspaper tomorrow.”

He later told The Baltimore Sun: “I don’t know what else to do except this.”

This, being journalism. Writing stories about victims that they knew and worked with, colleagues that they’d talked with on the phone just hours before the massacre.

The paper’s opinion section also published a haunting tribute to the victims.

The page reserved for opinions and editorials was mostly white space.

“Today, we are speechless,” went the small column in the middle of the page. “This page is intentionally left blank today to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shooting at our office.”

The names of the five employees who died were listed, one to each line.

The Capital is an institution in Maryland’s capital and was one of the last dailies to switch from publishing in the afternoon to mornings. Its sister publication, the Maryland Gazette, founded in 1727, is one of the oldest papers in America. In 1767, it became the first paper in America to be published by a woman, Anne Catherine Green, who led opposition to the stamp tax in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

For many years The Capital was published by diplomat Philip Merrill, who died in 2006. It was sold in 2014 to the Baltimore Sun Media Group.

On Thursday, journalists with the daily huddled under a covered parking deck of the Annapolis Mall, not far from where reporters from scores of other media outlets were clumped together awaiting further details of the shooting.

Editor Rick Hutzell called a few of his journalists over to talk, a discussion punctuated with hugs and stunned expressions.

“We’re trying to do our job and deal with five people” who lost their lives, said reporter Pat Furgurson, whose wife and adult son were with him at the mall.

Furgurson’s pickup truck became a makeshift office. He said his colleagues were “just people trying to do their job for the public.”

“You think something like this might happen in Afghanistan, not in a newsroom a block away from the mall,” he said, reflecting on what appeared to be one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. Police later said the gunman explicitly targeted the newspaper.

Reporters brushed aside any logistical difficulties putting out a newspaper when the newsroom is an off-limits crime scene.

High school sports editor Bob Hough told The Associated Press he and a colleague were working on the sports section from his home Thursday evening.

“I don’t know that there was ever any thought to not putting something together,” said Hough, who wasn’t at the office when the shooting broke out. Hough said they were doing a full five-page section in collaboration with the design team based at the Baltimore Sun that always lays out the pages.

He noted that some of his colleagues were out reporting on the shooting story as it continued to unfold late Thursday and said he expected the next day’s paper would include that coverage and whatever else would be in a typical Friday paper. By 10:30 p.m. Thursday, the Capital’s website had in-depth stories on the shootings, a yearslong feud the suspect had with the paper and a photo and profile of each of the journalists’ slain co-workers.

Photographer Josh McKerrow edited photos on a laptop in the garage deck.

“It’s what our instinct was — to go back to work,” McKerrow said. “It’s what our colleagues would have done.”

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Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin contributed to this report from Richmond, Virginia.

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