“It didn’t matter if you were working late at night or early on a Saturday; he was there,” said Elisha Sauers, a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot who worked with Fischman at the Capital Gazette for eight years. “I just remember that if we were all having a conversation around him, he might be very quiet, and you might even forget he was there. And then out of the blue, he would have some very funny remark and chime in. He always had the perfect aside.”
Fischman, one of five employees of the Capital Gazette killed in a shooting Thursday at the newspaper’s office, won first- and second-place awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association this year for his editorials about a noose that was left at a local middle school and about a County Council member’s effort to censor public speakers at a council meeting.
“He had a much louder voice in his writing than he did in person,” Sauers said. “He was so shy and avoided eye contact, but he was a lot more confident in his writing voice.”
Sauers described the Capital Gazette newsroom as small, scrappy and close-knit.
“If you had a bad day, you just wanted to go out to a bar with your colleagues and commiserate,” she said. “Even though a lot of us scattered to different newspapers, we’ve all kept in touch.”
She spent much of Thursday afternoon texting with many of those old friends, trying to find out news about Fischman and other former co-workers still at the paper.
Fischman graduated from the University of Maryland in 1979 and served as the state editor on the school’s newspaper, the Diamondback.
Ron Jones, a copy editor at The Washington Post, first met Fischman 35 years ago when they both worked at the Carroll County Times in Carroll County, Md. They quickly became good friends.
Jones said he and Fischman met over the years for lunch or dinner and talked about everything from politics and current events to popular culture and ancient Roman history.
“He would always know something that was just so obscure, and you’d wonder, ‘How does he know all of this stuff?’ ” Jones said. “He was just very knowledgeable about a whole slew of things, which is very useful when you work at a daily newspaper.”
Fischman was somewhat conservative politically, but also was open-minded and would look at the pros and cons of everything, Jones said. He remembered his friend as a superb writer whose style was “the opposite of whatever bloviating is.”
Jones had spoken briefly to Fischman on Wednesday evening and they had made plans to talk again on Thursday. That wouldn’t happen.
“I’m really going to miss him, and I sure wish I could have talked with him for just another five minutes,” Jones said.
Fischman is survived by his wife, Saran Erdenebat, an opera singer from Mongolia, and a stepdaughter.