Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Remembering, honoring: ties to the Capital Gazette

Maryland has a particularly close-knit, overlapping journalism network. Competitors often become colleagues as we move from one place to the next, then sometimes back again.

For me, three daily newspapers, in particular, feel like a triad, in size and in scope.

Most of my 19 years working in Maryland has been at two of them — The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown and The Frederick News-Post.

The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, where my connections are more secondary, is the third leg.

Even if we don’t know our counterparts, in this newspaper group, we intrinsically understand each other’s work, roles and travails. We each do much the same thing — monitor lots of government bodies; provide a forum for debate; document achievements and setbacks in words and images — but in different counties.

On June 28, 2018, I was driving from Maryland to New York to attend a long-awaited milestone high school reunion.

About halfway through my trip, a newspaper friend in Virginia called to ask if I heard about a rumor of a shooting at The Capital Gazette. I hadn’t.

It turned out to be true. For the rest of the day and evening, an odd haze divided my heart — joy at reconnecting with childhood friends tempered by sadness and grief over a newsroom massacre.


Whenever we talk about what happened, it’s forever appropriate to say and honor who was killed that day:

• Rob Hiaasen, 59, an assistant editor and columnist

• Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications

• Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor

• Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant

• John McNamara, 56, a sports writer who also covered news and edited the Bowie Blade-News and the Crofton-West County Gazette

Andrea Chamblee (left), the widow of John McNamara, and Erica Fischman, the widow of Gerald Fischman, at a community event in Annapolis in July 2018 to honor the Capital Gazette and victims of the shootings. (Photo by Andy Schotz)

By chance, I got to meet McNamara about a year earlier, after a Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association awards banquet.

That day, Maryland’s cohesive network was at play in how that happened. Glen Cullen, an editor who worked with me at The Gazette weekly chain (unrelated to The Capital Gazette), used to work with McNamara in Annapolis and invited him to join us.

Quickly, I learned during that conversation over drinks and a meal that McNamara used to work at The Herald-Mail, a while before I got there.

I know of at least one other Hagerstown tie to the victims. A while back, Hiaasen once wrote a wonderfully fun feature story about my Hagerstown newsroom’s practice of running photos of large, distinctive vegetables people grew in their gardens.


Shortly after the shootings last year, SPJ’s board and staff asked ourselves what so many others did: How can we help the Capital Gazette?

One way, we decided, was to gather donations, especially after we learned of a benefit fund.

We instantly came up with $10,000. That included $3,500 from three SPJers donating their budgeted expense-reimbursement money and $6,500 from previous sales of our First Amendment T-shirts.

For six more months, all SPJ T-shirt sales money was earmarked for the Capital Gazette.

Hundreds of orders poured in, originating in nearly every state, Washington, D.C., and Canada. Some buyers included poignant notes, sharing the ache in their hearts.

SPJ channeled this caring and kindness into another $10,000 donation.

Our total of $20,000 was divided between two funds — $10,000 for Capital Gazette survivors and their families; $10,000 for University of Maryland journalism scholarships in the name of some victims.

Our T-shirt sales were responsible for $15,000 of that total.


Capital Gazette staff and families at a community event in Annapolis in July 2018 to honor the newspaper and victims of the shootings.

At first, many people who wanted to help the Capital Gazette donated money through a GoFundMe account that Madi Alexander, a data journalist for Bloomberg Government, quickly set up after the shootings.

Soon, that GoFundMe account was folded into one started by Tronc (as Tribune was known at the time), the Capital Gazette’s parent company.

The Tronc account was through the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County.

I was heartened by how much that account swelled in the days, weeks and months after the shootings — surpassing $100,000, then $500,000, then $1 million. The flood of support was a comforting way to counter the sadness.

Recently, I checked on the final result.

Amy Francis, the Community Foundation’s director of development, told me that the fund remains open. However, collections to directly benefit Capital Gazette survivors and families stopped on Dec. 31. A Community Foundation fund can’t help only specific people; it has to have a wider purpose and is now meant for “broader community healing.”

In total, $1.944 million was collected through that fund. Of that, $111,000 was put aside to keep the fund active into 2019 and beyond.

After an extensive review process, a committee distributed the rest, $1.833 million, to victims’ families and Capital Gazette employees — a total of 35 people.

Francis said the Community Foundation got advice from communities where other mass shootings happened — Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Las Vegas; Parkland, Florida.

“This is our hometown. This is our hometown paper …,” Francis told me. “We were honored to provide this service.”

The Community Foundation also hosts a University of Maryland, College Park, scholarship fund set up to honor the five victims. Hiaasen taught there. McNamara and Fischman were alumni.

The journalism school at College Park is named after the late Philip Merrill, whose family owned the Capital Gazette for many years.

When Francis and I talked earlier this year, the scholarship fund had about $170,000. It has grown since then, and the first two scholarships have been awarded. (The University of Maryland also established separate awards to honor McNamara, Fischman and Hiaasen.)


The Capital Gazette is never far from my thoughts.

I know the Annapolis neighborhood where the staff, until recently, had a temporary home.

A friend and former colleague of mine in Frederick has rejoined the Capital Gazette staff (more cross-pollination).

I’ve met some of the staff and worked with them on a Sunshine Week project. I read their social media posts — their humor; their proud moments; their up-and-down struggles to cope with a new, difficult normal.

(A side note: Please support photojournalist Paul Gillespie’s wonderful photo project — Journalists Matter: Faces of the Capital Gazette)

(Side note 2: Show your support for the Capital Gazette, and for all journalism, by subscribing. It’s a damn good paper.)

(Side note 3: The state of Maryland is showing its support by designating June 28, every year, as Freedom of the Press Day.)

When I think of my peers in Annapolis, I try to heed editor Rick Hutzell’s eloquent advice: Remember the victims, but also focus on friends and coworkers left behind: Gillespie, Chase Cook, Joshua McKerrow, E.B. Furgurson III, Selene San Felice, Rachael Pacella, Danielle Ohl, Phil Davis and many others.

Today, as always, I’m right there with you, my friends.

Andy Schotz is SPJ’s Region 2 director and an editor at The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, Md.

Introducing/remembering Austin Kiplinger

Several years ago, I used to edit the Washington, D.C., Pro chapter’s newsletter, called Dateline. I started a feature called “Introducing…,” a monthly Q&A with a chapter member.

One of my favorites was with Austin H. Kiplinger, editor emeritus of Kiplinger Washington Editors, an SPJ luminary who died Friday at age 97.

This was in 2007, as he and the chapter each (coincidentally) celebrated their 75th anniversary with SPJ. (It’s not clear if he had the most years of SPJ/SDX membership ever, but it’s possible.)

[Here, here and here are some clips in which Kiplinger’s wisdom, eloquence and humor come across.]

Kiplinger, a member of the D.C. Pro Hall of Fame and 2014 lifetime achievement award winner with the chapter, typed his answers on two yellow pages and mailed them back — after editing my questions a little, for the better. The heading on his answers is “AHK Intvu for Jan. 2007 Dateline (SDX).” He used a black pen to carefully edit himself.


Here is what he wrote:

INTRODUCING… Austin H. Kiplinger

Where are you from? I was born in Washington of parents who had recently moved here from Columbus, Ohio. My father started on the Ohio State Journal and then transferred to the Associated Press in Columbus. During World War I, he came to Washington to cover the Treasury for the Associated Press.

Have you always been a journalist? Yes. Even before I was getting paid for it; I edited a paper for my high school Latin Class “Ad Ovum Usque Mala.” Then I edited the Western Breeze at the Western High School in Washington, and the Areopagus magazine of commentary at Cornell. But I did get paid for doing string reporting for the Ithaca Journal while I was an undergraduate at Cornell.

When did you join Sigma Delta Chi? I joined in 1936 at Cornell while I was working for the Ithaca Journal (I got $4 a week for my work.)

How long have you been a member of the Washington Chapter? I’m not sure. I may have joined in 1939 when I was working as a junior reporter on the Kiplinger Washington Letter.

What kind of publications have you worked for? I have worked in every known form of journalism (except blogging). I’ve reported and written for dailies (the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Journal of Commerce), weeklies (The Kiplinger Letters), monthlies (Changing Times, The Kiplinger Magazine), broadcasting ABC and NBC in Chicago during the political convention years of the 1950s, and now electronic media (

What was your best journalism moment? There have been so many vivid experiences, it is hard to pick the best one. One of the most dramatic (and exhausting) was the day of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. I got word of the shooting in Dallas at about 1 o’clock on that Friday afternoon. I was at our circulation offices in suburban Maryland and I dashed to the office. We already had a draft of the week’s letter ready for the press. It dealt with the political problems President Kennedy was experiencing, and it would have sounded almost ghoulish if it had been read on Monday morning. That was scrapped, and for the next 12 hours we scoured the city, covering our sources on the Hill and throughout government and elsewhere for every scrap of judgment we could get on Lyndon Johnson, the new President. In retrospect, that Letter was a good solid job which has held up remarkably well over the years.

What was the oddest thing you ever experienced on the job? I don’t quite know. I do remember keeping a telephone line open for nearly two hours at the hotel room of Vice President Alben Barkley on the day he announced he was not going to run for President. When the telephone operator asked me who to charge the call to, I said “charge it to the Vice President,” which now, these many years later (54 years), does seem a little cheeky. But then reporters are supposed to use their ingenuity and I used mine.

Why do you belong to SDX, SPJ? Because it is an effective vehicle for interesting bright young prospects in our great profession, and one of the best guardians of ethics and honesty in the preparation of the news.



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