US newsrooms fall silent to honour 5 slain at US paper

2018-07-06 13:01

Newsrooms usually abuzz with approaching deadlines fell oddly silent as journalists nationwide paused to honour five people shot dead a week before at a Maryland newspaper.

At a temporary office of the Capital Gazette, where the massacre occurred, survivors gathered sombrely at 14:33 on Thursday.

Editor Rick Hutzell rang a bell and the staff lit candles for each person who died exactly seven days earlier, The Baltimore Sun reported.

At the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, dozens paused to reflect as Manhattan streets kept humming below.

At The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, voices cracked as a moment of silence was accompanied by the names of the five victims being read aloud.

"It was incredibly quiet," said reporter Jane Harper, 55, who once worked at the Annapolis paper. "Not a cellphone rang. Not a desk phone. Not a single sound."

Remembrance of the dead

The American Society of News Editors and The Associated Press Media Editors asked newsrooms around the globe to join in a remembrance of the dead, and many did.

Journalists at The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City worked through tragedy after the deadly bombing of a federal building in 1995, and about 40 newspaper staffers bowed their heads in memory of the victims in Maryland.

"The folks a week ago at the Capital Gazette had a worse experience in their newsroom, and yet they admirably did what they do, what we all do," business and lifestyle editor Clytie Bunyan said.

The newsroom of the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, fell silent in memory of the victims after executive editor Joel Christopher read the names of the dead.

"They paid a high price for doing what we do," he said.

About 100 people gathered at AP in New York to observe a moment of silence, circling around a desk where coverage of national and international stories is planned.

The attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom was "frightening and distressing in so many ways", AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said.

Jimmie Gates, a reporter who participated in a moment of silence at the Clarion Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, said being a journalist is like being in a small fraternity or sorority, and an injury to any one member hurts all.

"It was just like a family member being taken away," Gates said.

Journalism schools

The remembrance also touched journalism schools. No classes were in session at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, but more than a dozen faculty members and students bowed their heads in memory of the slain newspaper workers.

One of the victims, assistant managing editor Rob Hiaasen, was an adjunct lecturer who taught his first class at the school in the spring semester.

Two other victims, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman and John McNamara, a writer and copy editor, earned their bachelor's degrees from the university more than three decades ago.

Special publications editor Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith, a recently hired sales assistant, also were killed. Deborah Nelson, an associate professor at Maryland, said the killings will be on the minds of people getting into journalism.

"Students will be traumatised by the loss and they'll also be wondering about the issue of safety, which is something we haven't had to deal with much in the US," she said.

Jarrod Ramos, a 38-year-old Maryland man with a long-time grudge against the newspaper, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the shooting. He is being held without bail.

Executive editor Paige Mudd of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia said what happened in Annapolis was a reminder that journalists' work makes them vulnerable.

"We're not in the line of fire every day like police or the military, but we do run the risk of angering readers or the public if they don't like our coverage. And you just can't predict how a disgruntled reader might react," Mudd said.

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