COLLEGE PARK (12/12/18) — The conference room in Knight Hall — noisy and packed to its edges with friends, family and colleagues of the five people killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom shooting on June 28 — fell silent as the speakers began.
Andrea Chamblee (‘83), the widow of John McNamara (‘83), called on writers to tell gun violence victims’ stories, no matter how numerous.
Maria Hiaasen, whose husband was Rob Hiaasen, urged everyone to help keep guns out of the hands of people with erratic or violent tendencies.
Erica Fischman, the wife of Gerald Fischman (‘79), recalled with pride that her husband’s writing gave voice to the voiceless.
Rick Hutzell, editor of Capital Gazette, spoke fondly of Wendi Winters’ enthusiasm for the community and Rebecca Smith’s sweet personality.
They were all remembered Tuesday when the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism dedicated the Capital Gazette Memorial Seminar Room in Knight Hall. Dean Lucy A. Dalglish said the five were “not the enemy of the people” — as President Donald Trump has called journalists — “but the glue that holds the community together.”
The room — used for classes, meetings and events — is intended to teach its visitors about Capital Gazette and the five people who gave their lives. The memorial was dedicated the same day the Capital Gazette staff was named among TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year honorees.
“They are all important figures in the history of community journalism,” Hutzell said of his colleagues. “Today’s dedication recognizes that, and I think they would all be proud of that as part of their legacy.”
That legacy includes lessons passed to the scores of young journalists who looked to the Capital Gazette staff members as mentors.
Rob Hiaasen, who first taught a news writing class at Merrill College this past spring, would have completed his second semester by now. Maria Hiaasen said the stacks of paper on his desk at their home showed his excitement — files were labeled “Quizzes!” and “Syllabus!” — and he had compiled a list of writers each of his students should read (Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Ta-Nehisi Coates).
“He did love the craft of journalism and the craft of writing,” she said. “And I know he would be damn proud and honored by what’s happened here.”
Fischman said her husband, Gerald, “had dedicated his whole life and talent in journalism.”
“His parents wanted him to be a lawyer, but he had followed his childhood dream and had chosen to be a journalist,” Erica Fischman said. As an editorial writer, he saw himself as the voice of those who could not speak, and took great pride in that responsibility.
His words inspired the next generation — starting with his daughter, Uka Saran.
“He’s the reason of every success in my life and my career, to this day,” said Saran, a graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
McNamara, a sportswriter, also had a plaque in Xfinity Center dedicated to his memory during a Maryland basketball game Tuesday evening. Chamblee said she had just signed a contract to publish her husband’s third book — about Washington high school basketball.
But Chamblee called on McNamara’s friends — and all writers — to do a different kind of reporting. She meticulously articulated the names and stories of people recently killed by guns, and urged journalists to avoid becoming numb to the violence.
“As writers, that’s your tool, your skill and your horrible burden,” Chamblee said. “Make sure we all get used to not getting used to it.”