When tragedy strikes, reporters are often early to the scene — gathering information, speaking to victims and witnesses with the intention of compiling these threads into an informative story for their readers.
These reporters, though, seemed bound by their duty, even in a time of crisis. So they did their jobs — taking to Twitter to get details out has quickly as possible. Before any official reports were written, a scene began to emerge online, from the reporters, rather than a passing witness.
The tweets first came from staff inside the newsroom. Slowly they rippled out from there, as reporters on vacation and friends and family of Gazette staffer offered information.
One of the earliest indications that something horrible was underway came from Anthony Messenger, who identifies himself as a Capital Gazette intern in his Twitter bio, in a pair of chilling tweets.
Active shooter 888 Bestgate please help us— Anthony Messenger (@anthonydmess) June 28, 2018
John McNamara worked for the newspaper in various capacities for more than 20 years, according to the newspaper’s website. He was later identified as one of the five people killed in Thursday’s shooting.
It would still be about an hour before police confirmed an active shooter, according to local media reports.
Phil Davis, a Gazette courts and crime reporter, tweeted a few further details after being evacuated from the building.
A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.— Phil Davis (@PDavis_LLC) June 28, 2018
Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees. Can't say much more and don't want to declare anyone dead, but it's bad.— Phil Davis (@PDavis_LLC) June 28, 2018
There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you're under your desk and then hear the gunman reload— Phil Davis (@PDavis_LLC) June 28, 2018
Soon, many Gazette employees — some who were not in the newsroom — began reporting their conditions and those of their colleagues.
I am OK. I am on vacation in the Outer Banks. I will try to post as I get more information. Please, just pray.— Danielle Ghoul 🧟♀️ (@DTOhl) June 28, 2018
This is specifically for Twitter (my tweets copy to my Facebook). I am fine. I was not in the office at the time of the incident.— Bob Hough (@bobhoke74) June 28, 2018
To all my Twitter follows. I am okay. Thank God I was not at the office when this horrible incident occurred. However, many of my colleagues and friends are not okay and that is solely where my thoughts are right now. Please do not attempt to contact me via text or phone call.— Bill Wagner (@BWagner_CapGaz) June 28, 2018
I am safe. Was not there. On my way to scene.— Joshua McKerrow (@joshuamckerrow) June 28, 2018
Eventually, people tangentially connected to the newsroom began offering information. CNBC’s John Harwood was in touch with an old high school classmate of his at the Gazette.
The Gazette’s community news editor, Jimmy DeButts, offered a statement of sorts as the dust began to settle: “Devastated & heartbroken. Numb. Please stop asking for information/interviews. I’m in no position to speak.”
We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be.— Jimmy DeButts 🇺🇸 🌈 (@jd3217) June 28, 2018
All these tweets made one thing clear: The small newsroom — its editorial staff consists of only 31 people — was left in pain, reeling after the shooting.
“The Capital is not a big newsroom,” reporter Danielle Ohl tweeted. “We are close. We are family. I am devastated.”
The Gazette’s General Assembly reporter, Chase Cook, who has been reporting on the scene, echoed that sentiment, saying he was “devastated.” But their mission remained clear.
I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.— Chase Cook (The tiels are Poe and Stanley) (@chaseacook) June 28, 2018