The hum of the Capital Gazette offices on June 28, 2018, would have been instantly familiar to many journalists: Phil Davis was reporting on a spike in water-related deaths. Paul W. Gillespie was editing images. Rob Hiaasen was the editor on duty and looking forward to celebrating his wife’s birthday that evening.
Then came gunfire and terror as a man bearing a shotgun blasted through the glass door and fatally shot five employees. Two others were injured.
Huddled under desks in the back of the office, reporter Selene San Felice used the phone of intern Anthony Messenger, to tweet out calls for help at 2:43 p.m. — and to begin to report one of the most horrific days in American journalism.
Over the ensuing hours, Capital journalists would scramble to report on the attack, despite their own horrors, despite not knowing who was alive and who was dead. They improvised to produce the day’s news report, mostly out of the back of a pickup truck.
Meanwhile, reporters from The Baltimore Sun — some of them Capital alumni, some close friends with Capital staff — dropped everything to cover this story.
At 3:04 p.m., photographer Josh McKerrow arrived on the scene and began sharing images on social media.
By 3:11 p.m. we had published the first take of the first story, “Shooting reported at Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, staff say,” followed by many updates.
At 9:03 p.m., a profile of suspect Jarrod Ramos that examined his long-running feud with the Capital went live. That was followed, over the next 80 minutes, by smart, moving profiles of the five victims. In one instance, The Sun’s Jean Marbella profiled The Capital’s Rob Hiaasen; she had previously been his longtime editor.
While rumors and misinformation were flying around social media and some other outlets, we worked hard to make sure we got the facts right, given the responsibility of being in the middle of the story.
While other news organizations have reported on violence against their individual staff members or the death of staff members, no other U.S. news organization has done so after a targeted attack that killed one-third of the editorial staff.
The Capital, together with The Sun, was the first news organization to report the majority of the pertinent details the day of the attack. We were the first to profile all five victims. Our reporting was marked by speed, thoroughness and gravity.