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The Capital Massacre

It has left our lives filled with holes

My newspaper is full of holes.   
    No, Bay Weekly hasn’t forgotten a story here or an ad there. I’m using my in the larger sense that each of us newspaper readers invokes each day: My paper, as in the newspaper I depend on to tell me the daily story of our times, up to date and delivered to my door.
    My newspaper each morning is The Capital. The holes — burned as if acid had dropped onto the paper — are the missing stories by Wendi Winters, John McNamara and Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman’s signature unsigned editorials, the ads Rebecca Smith helped bring in to support the paper.
    A week has gone by since the bloody, deadly massacre at The Capital newspaper, giving us time to encounter every hole.
    Rob Hiaasen’s Sunday column would not have been comically breezy — had he lived to write the column of Sunday, July 1. Though we welcomed the tributes, the hole of his absence filled his space in the Life section of that morning’s paper. For his readers, his space will remain forever empty.
    Fischman’s editorials, had he lived to define this week, would have put into words the feelings that grapple wordlessly in so many hearts. The paper’s editors rose to the occasion of following his inimitable act. But his readers will always see the emptiness of his senseless death in his place at the top of the editorial page.
    John McNamara: Well, Capital sports page readers have been missing his insights since he moved to the Capital sister papers, the Bowie Blade-News and the Crofton-West County Gazette. Yet we readers projected the hole in our hearts onto the page and felt the depth of the void.
    Wendi Winters, of course, made her posthumous deadline. We read her Saturday, June 30 Teen of the Week — profiling Anne Arundel Community College journalist Sarah Noble, moonlighting from what has been her day job as a student at Broadneck High School — with heartsore awareness of its irony. Death drained even Wendi’s indomitable energy. A lacework of holes bled loss into the many spaces, especially Home of the Week, that would have been filled, in the course of a week, by the writer who so often — as the journalism saying goes — wrote the whole paper.
    Those newspaper men and newspaper woman died as they lived, with the righteous certainty of their place in history as its daily reporters.
    Journalists like them thrive on the energy of the ever-goading deadline, and every newsroom buzzes like a beehive. Rebecca Smith must have fed on the high and felt that wonderful sense of shared purpose in hard work rewarded each day by the tangible, ink-and-paper proof of your achievement. Now her newspaper job has made her part of its death toll.
    My newspaper is full of holes.
    Yet in death, these journalists have written a story that will never be forgotten. It will lose its urgency in the news cycle. But it will never fade from the hearts and memories of its readers.
    That’s the Pulitzer Prize all of us journalists seek, for we know that the stories we’ve written today will be crab wrap tomorrow. Capital journalists were well in on that joke. It’s that read-today-gone-tomorrow syndrome that makes so many journalists avid to write their book. By their tragic, blood-soaked route, Wendi, Rob, John, Rebecca and Gerald have achieved permanence. Not even journalists would trade their lives for that, but having no alternative, they would appreciate it.
    Which doesn’t do a thing to assuage the pain — the outrage, the demand for justification — that radiates out from the center of each person’s loss — from their family, to their friends, to their newspaper, to their community, finally to the worldwide community of journalists and readers who depend on them to fill our newspapers, and our lives, with meaning.
    Now we will have to find our way without them.

Sandra Olivetti Martin, Editor and publisher
email [email protected],