Enough time has passed since someone opened fire at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis that we can give a death toll “as of writing.” At this minute, a moment when we know more than nothing and less than everything, we know that at least five people were killed in the attack. Five dead, as of writing.
We don’t know who those people are or why they were killed. But assuming that all five worked for the newspapers published by the parent company of the Gazette, this may be the deadliest day for journalists in American history.
It’s hard to say, for a number of reasons. Consider data provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists. Since 1992, seven journalists have been killed, and four others died on one day when two news helicopters collided over Phoenix. Numerous others have died in accidents (mostly automotive).
The death toll at the Capital Gazette is larger than any of those incidents.
Readers will remember the deaths of Alison Parker and Adam Ward in Virginia. They were filming a remote segment for a local television news network when a man shot them both during a live shot.
The boundaries of which employees should be included are hard to determine. The IFJ notes the deaths of six television production workers with offices in the World Trade Center who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Another journalist, William Biggart, was killed in the collapse of the towers. Another journalist, Robert Stevens, was killed in 2001 when he inhaled anthrax mailed to American Media Inc. in Florida.
As of writing, then, Thursday was the deadliest day since 9/11 for journalists and probably the second-deadliest in U.S. history.
Data on the deaths of journalists over the course of the country’s history is trickier to come by. If we take what’s at Wikipedia (along with the requisite grains of salt), the tally by decade shows how today’s attack stands out. (The Wikipedia data doesn’t include the six killed in the World Trade Center.) Only one decade has more deaths than were suffered in Annapolis: The 1980s, which saw a number of politically motivated killings, including that of liberal radio host Alan Berg.
We’ve reached out to the CPJ to see whether there is data we’re missing.
We can contextualize it in another way, though. In 2017, there were 54 media workers and journalists killed around the world. As many media employees died in Annapolis on Thursday as were killed in Somalia, the Philippines and Brazil in 2017 — combined. Only Syria, Iraq, Mexico and Afghanistan had more deaths last year than Maryland had this week.
And that’s only as of writing.