Editor of paper that endured newsroom shooting says goodbye

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The editor of the Capital Gazette, which won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its newsroom, is leaving the Maryland newspaper.

Rick Hutzell, who worked at the Annapolis paper for more than three decades, authored a farewell column that was published on the paper’s website Saturday morning.

Hutzell said he took a buyout that was offered by the newspaper’s parent company. The Capital Gazette was owned by Tribune Publishing until it was purchased last month by Hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Hutzell was editor of the paper when five employees were shot to death in the newsroom in 2018.

“The murder of my five friends, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith, changed me,” he wrote on Saturday. “I always enjoyed the job. But I became consumed with the notion that it was my purpose to save the paper. A man with a shotgun tried to kill us — to kill me and the newspaper I’ve poured my life into for 33 years. I wasn’t going to let it die.”

“Of course, it wasn’t my responsibility alone,” he continued.” “Together with a group of very talented journalists and other employees in Annapolis, Baltimore and across Tribune Publishing, we kept publishing.”

The paper published on schedule and won the Pulitzer citation.

The man behind the attack, Jarrod Ramos, had a long-running grudge against the newspaper. He has pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible due to insanity. A trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible is set to begin later this month.

Hutzell said he’s not sure what’s next. But he said the buyout represented a chance for something new.

“I came to The Capital in October 1987, and promptly told Managing Editor Tom Marquardt I planned to stay for two years and then join the Associated Press and see the world,” he wrote. “One love of my life, Chara, two kids, two houses, four dogs, two convertibles and one Pulitzer Prize later, it’s clear I had no idea what I was talking about.

“I wish I could say it’s all been grand, and I’m headed off to retirement. But it hasn’t, and I’m not.”