A project of Democracy Fund

June 29, 2018

Local Fix: Wendi, Rebecca, John, Rob, Gerald

We are stunned and heartbroken by the news out of Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette yesterday. Regardless of motive, an attack on any journalist is an attack on all of us and an assault on our free press. 

So often, journalists or “the media” are talked about as a faceless thing. But we know journalists, and all those who work to make local news happen — from the accountants to the editors to the janitors to the fact checkers and so on — are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, neighbors. They’re Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters. Their families and colleagues are in our thoughts. In their honor, we are sharing links to learn about them below, written by reporters from The Baltimore Sun:

  • Gerald Fischman: “For more than 25 years, Fischman was the conscience and voice of the Annapolis news organization, writing scathing, insightful and always exacting editorials about the community. He was the guardian against libel, the arbiter of taste and a peculiar and endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters.” 
  • Rob Hiaasen: “He was both a tender-hearted features writer and a jaded journalist,” said former Sun columnist Susan Reimer, who lives in Annapolis. “He absolutely saw it all, and with a very clear eye.” 
  • John McNamara: “He was a loyal friend with an infectious laugh, and he was a willing mentor for young journalists. In other words, he never allowed his professional distance to detract from just being a thoroughly decent person.”
  • Rebecca Smith: “She was a very thoughtful person…she was kind and considerate, and willing to help when needed. She seemed to really enjoy to be working in the media business.” 
  • Wendi Winters:  “After a career in fashion and public relations in New York City, the 65-year-old mother of four moved to Maryland 20 years ago and began stringing for the Annapolis news organization. She soon built a reputation as a prolific freelance reporter and well-known community resource.”

We know many of you work in newsrooms like the Capital Gazette and see yourself in the names and stories above. You have faced your own threats, you have weathered harassment, you have felt unsafe covering a story. We know you take risks in pursuing the truth and getting communities the news they need. We know this news hits close to home. 

Within hours of the tragedy unfolding, Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” Facing down violence, horror and a tragedy in their newsroom, the journalists at the Capital Gazette responded by rallying together to support each other and do their jobs. This is what we do. This is what you do. We are so grateful for you. 

Today is a hard day. Check in with your friends, reach out to your colleagues, or just hit reply if you want to talk. We are here for you. 

Josh, Teresa and Rachel
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @rachelannwegner

The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund, you can find a full list of the organizations we support on our website.