Newspaper veterans among victims of Capital Gazette shooting

Victims named as Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith and John McNamara


The small city of Annapolis, Maryland, was to hold a vigil in the public square on Friday night for the five newspaper staff murdered in their office on Thursday afternoon – three editors, a staff writer and a sales assistant in an award-winning local team.

A special service is planned to remember the victims on Saturday evening at one of the main downtown churches in the Maryland state capital, about 50km east of Washington DC.

The victims were named by officials on Thursday night and several of them had worked at the Capital Gazette newspaper for decades when a gunman burst into the newsroom after firing through the glass door.

They were assistant news editor Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, special publications editor Wendi Winters, sales assistant Rebecca Smith and staff writer John McNamara.

Just hours after the shooting, the Capital Gazette had profiles of all five murdered staffers on its website , as well as on the site of the Baltimore Sun, its sister paper.

Hiaasen (59), who had previously worked at the Palm Beach Post in Florida and the Baltimore Sun, was described as a “joyful stylist” and “generous mentor” who had pushed reporters to make their work better and more human.

A well-respected writer, he was also known as the brother of novelist and columnist Carl Hiaasen, and once wrote an article interviewing brothers of other famous figures.

Carl Hiaasen called his brother “gentle, generous and gifted” and was a very warm husband, father and brother who was the “rock” of the family. “He dedicated his whole life to journalism,” he said.

On Friday morning, the novelist told CNN: “He was doing what he loved to do, which was put out a paper for the people of Annapolis.”

‘Wicked pen’

As part of a small team in the shrinking regional newspaper sector, Wendi Winters was a reporter, columnist and photographer and had won awards for her writing.

Winters (65), was a former freelancer who “spent a dozen years writing her way into the Capital Gazette newsroom”, according to her profile , and had written columns on “home of the week” and “teen of the week”.

Fischman (61, was remembered as the “clever and witty voice of a community paper” where he had worked for more than 25 years , the paper’s “conscience” and a man with a “wicked pen”.

“He’d huddle at his desk behind piles of books in a buttoned-down V-neck cardigan that he wore regardless of the season,” Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox wrote of Fischman. Other reporters “marvelled at the hours he’d keep for no obvious deadline reason”.

McNamara (56) had worked at the paper for nearly 24 years. “At a small paper like that, you have to be versatile,” former Capital Gazette editor Gerry Jackson said in McNamara’s profile . “He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person.”

Ms Smith, the youngest staffer killed, was 34, and had recently joined the organisation as a sales assistant. She was remembered as thoughtful and considerate, someone who was always ready to help. – Guardian