Justice for Capital Gazette victims
Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters. Those five employees of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, went into work on June 28, 2018 and lost their lives — for doing their jobs.
To target journalists out of resentment for their factual reporting on a matter with which they had nothing to do, except to write about it, makes no sense to a sane mind — but it is not an act of insanity. Last week a Maryland jury found that the man who killed the five in their newsroom was sane at the time and liable to prosecution. Jarrod Ramos, now 41, had already pleaded guilty to all counts. With the jury's finding, he is expected to be given prison time of at least five life sentences.
This case is another grim reminder of workplace gun violence as a risk to anyone anywhere, and of the often underestimated dangers to working journalists.
The shootings at the Capital Gazette followed six years of hostile tweets after the shooter lost a defamation suit against the publication. The newspaper had reported on his conviction for criminal harassment in a 2011 case involving a former high school classmate. His gripe wasn't part of the hostile politics of recent years; it was personal, spiteful and cowardly.
This hit close to home. Patricia Richardson, publisher of The Day at the time of the shooting, had served as publisher of The Capital Gazette in 2013-2014 and knew four of the victims. Richardson told Day reporter Karen Florin that Ramos's threats were treated "incredibly seriously" and preventive action was taken. Yet the shooter carried out his calculations, including mailing cards to editors and others on the day of the attack, and hiding under a desk so he himself could survive.
Gerald Fischman was the editorial page editor; Rob Hiaasen, an assistant managing editor; John McNamara, a sportswriter; Rebecca Smith, an advertising sales assistant; and Wendi Winters, a special publications editor.
The jury's verdict appropriately rejected the killer's claim of insanity and removed that obstacle from sentencing him to the fullest.
The surviving staff of the Capital Gazette went on to put out a newspaper for the day after the shooting and won a Pulitzer Prize for their heroic coverage of the news.
In December 2020 Congress passed the bipartisan Fallen Journalists Memorial Act to create a national memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor journalists killed for their reporting. President Trump signed the bill into law. A national foundation is leading the effort.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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