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Attacked newsroom: Pulitzer remembered with a sombre silence

Editor Rick Hutzell, center, gives a speech to his staff, including Chase Cook, Nicki Catterlin, Rachael Pacella, Selene San Felice and Danielle Ohl in the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Monday, April 15, 2019. Hutzell said Monday that his staff experienced a number of “rollercoaster moments” as it will be a special Pulitzer Prize citation for the coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its own editorial team. “Obviously, there were a lot of mixed feelings,” Hutzell told The Associated Press. “Nobody wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends.” (Ulysses Muoz/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Capital Gazette staff remained silent and gloomy exchanged hugs Monday at the Maryland newspaper won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for the coverage and courage in the face of a bloodbath in the newsroom.

Prior to the announcement, newspaper employees gathered in their newsroom to toast the five staff members that were shot and killed last June in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in AMERICAN history.

“It certainly is bittersweet,” said the reporter Chase Cook. “Because it is so connected to something so tragic, there was no euphoric pop off from excitement.”

The Capital Gazette, based on the Maryland state capital of Annapolis, published on plan the day after the shooting attack. The man charged in the attack had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper.

Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell said the paper had entries in five categories, including a joint entrance with The Baltimore Sun for the latest news. Although the Capital Gazette not win one of the five categories, the Pulitzer board awarded the quotation with an extraordinary $100,000 grant to her journalism.

The Pulitzer board said the quote is a tribute to the journalists, the staff and the editorial staff of the newspaper “for their courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in the AMERICAN history in their newsroom,” and for a “tireless commitment to covering the news and serving their community in a time of unspeakable grief.”

Hutzell said that he thought that the Pulitzer board treated its decision admirable.

“Obviously, there were a lot of mixed feelings,” Hutzell said. “Nobody wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends.”

He also said that the paper was aware, would be faced with heavy competition.

“It is very difficult if you are reporting in some respects to yourself,” he said. “That is not what we do. We are behind the camera, not in front of it.”

Employees John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen, were killed in the attack last June 28 . The shooting did not stop other members of the to cover and put out a newspaper the next day, with the help of colleagues at The Baltimore Sun, which is owned by the same company.

Joshua McKerrow, a photographer for the newspaper, said staff remained “stone silent” for about a minute, after learning about the citation. Capital Gazette reporter Rachael Pacella said the citation is a “great feeling of validation for the staff.”

“It’s a challenge to work again,” she said. “It lets you know that the additional stress you have to endure going back to work is worth and appreciated.”

Features reporter Selene San Felice said that she had to calm down in a bathroom before the prices were announced. She initially was not sure of how to respond to the special quote.

“At first I thought that meant that they just feel bad for us. And that is not true, because there are a lot of people you can feel bad for now. We have really earned it,” she said.

Jarrod Ramos, the man charged in the newsroom shooting, had a history of harassment of the newspaper, journalists. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, claimed he was defamed in an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The complaint was rejected as unfounded.

The rampage last June began with a shotgun blast that shattered the glass entrance to the open newsroom. Journalists crawled under a desk and sought other hiding places, in which painful minutes of fear, when they heard the shooter in the footsteps and repeated the blast of the weapon. County police said they caught Ramos hiding under a desk. The authorities say that he was not exchanging fire with the police.

Ramos’ trial is scheduled to start in November. He pleaded not guilty last year of first-degree murder charges. 29 April is the deadline for lawyers to change his plea to not criminally responsible due to insanity.

In October, the National Press Foundation announced that Hutzell won the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award . The award was established in 1984 to recognize imagination, craftsmanship, integrity and an ability to motivate staff.

In December, the newspaper staff was recognized by Time magazine among its 2018 Person of the Year nominee.

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