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Capital Gazette colleagues pay tribute to five victims of US newsroom attack

A Maryland daily newspaper has paid tributes to five staff members who were killed in a “targeted” attack on the paper yesterday.

The shootings of Capital Gazette staff Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters prompted messages of solidarity from journalists around the world and a vow from the newspaper to keep publishing – putting out an edition today.

Police have arrested Jarrod Warron Ramos, 38, in connection with the shooting. Ramos previously filed a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette and one of its columnists in 2012, but the case was dismissed.

Capital Gazette compared the loss of five journalists to losing family members, with former journalist Erin Cox tweeting that the paper had a “tight knit” newsroom which is “deeply devoted to the mission of community news”.

It paid tribute to each staff member in individual articles, published online.

Rob Hiaasen, 59, was assistant editor and columnist at the paper and one of the five people killed in the attack. He was described by his colleagues as having a “wryly observant writing style”.

Hiaasen was said to have been a generous mentor to young journalists at the Capital Gazette and its sister paper the Baltimore Sun, where he also worked as a features writer.

Tom Marquardt, former editor and publisher of the Capital Gazette, said: “He could be deadly serious about doing investigative reporting, but he also had a soft side.

“He had a special insight into people’s lives and their character. What Rob really brought to the game was his great writing ability and sense of humor.”

Hiaasen is survived by his wife, Maria, and children Ben, Samantha and Hannah. His brother, Carl, is a novelist and regular columnist at the Miami Herald newspaper.

Maria said Hiaasen “loved journalism” and “helping those young writers at the Gazette”.

Gerald Fischman, 61, editorial page editor, joined Capital Gazette in 1992 and was described by his colleagues as having a “wry wit” and “wicked pen”.

Marquardt said: “He had ability that, I thought, deserved a higher calling than The Capital. He was a great writer. He was a really smart guy, so smart that he tried out for [US game show] Jeopardy twice.

“But he couldn’t get accepted because they didn’t like his personality. That was Gerald’s spin, anyway.”

John McNamara, 56, worked at Capital Gazette for 23 years as a writer and news copy editor and was known for his versatility.

“He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person,” said former Capital Gazette sports editor Gerry Jackson.

Former colleague Jeff Barker added: “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.”

Wendi Winters, 65, a mother of four and special publications editor for the Capital, was another of the journalists killed in the attack.

One of her daughters, Winters Geimer, told the Capital Gazette: “My mother was a wonderful woman and a fantastic reporter.

“Her life was a gift to everyone who knew her and the world will not be the same without her.

“We are grieving and trying to make sure all of us can be together to celebrate the life of our mother.”

Winters worked at the paper for five years after ten years working as a freelance news writer.

Of Winters, Capital editor Kathryn Flynn said: “When we had something that needed to be covered on the weekends, when we only had a few people to call on, you could always call on Wendi.

“She would good-naturedly crank out three or four stories in a weekend.”

Rebecca Smith, 34, was a sales assistant at the Capital Gazette and had recently been hired by the paper.

Capital Gazette advertising director Marty Padden told the paper: “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.”

The Capital Gazette has pledged to carry on reporting and announced on Twitter  yesterday: “Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

The opinion page in today’s edition is left blank and is dedicated to the staff who were killed.

It reads: “Today we are left speechless.

“This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiassen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

“Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”

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