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How The Capital Gazette helped me become a journalist

How The Capital Gazette helped me become a journalist

The Capital Gazette was where I got my start in journalism.

I was invited to sit in on The Capital’s news meeting on a humid Annapolis afternoon in the summer of 2014. I wasn’t anyone important. I was 19 years old and a rising sophomore in college who thought he knew everything about journalism.

The people at staff newspapers like The Capital don’t only care about putting together a newspaper, they care about people.

I had sent an email to the then Editor-in-Chief, Steve Gunn (who left The Capital in 2015) giving my thoughts about the paper. He invited me to witness how a team of editors puts together a paper. After that meeting, he pulled me into his office, asked what I was about and told me I needed to start freelancing for them if I wanted to get anywhere in journalism. 

To learn about the newspaper’s style, I would come in after work each evening to hang out in the office and help the then night news editor, Teri Winslow (who also left in 2015) copy edit the paper with the late Gerald Fischman, the newspaper’s editorial page editor. I worked for free because I enjoyed being with the staff and learning from them. They worked fast together and they treated me like I was part of their team. After the paper was put to bed, Teri would listen to me pitch story ideas.

 Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook (R) and photographer Joshua McKerrow (L) work on the next day's newspaper while awaiting news from their colleagues in Annapolis, Maryland (AFP/Getty Images)

Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook (R) and photographer Joshua McKerrow (L) work on the next day's newspaper while awaiting news from their colleagues in Annapolis, Maryland (AFP/Getty Images)

When I went back to school in Illinois, Teri stayed in touch. My school’s newspaper adviser left the school without a replacement and I often had a Capital editor look at the front page stories before publishing. Brave folks like Joshua McKerrow—the photojournalist who rushed back to Bestgate to take photos of the swarm of first responders—encouraged me to be fearless.

The people at staff newspapers like The Capital don’t only care about putting together a newspaper, they care about people. They are often as sleep deprived as journalists at national publications, and often tell stories just as good or even better than the national reporters do.

In a world that seems to be diminishing the role of journalism in democracy, and where the expectation is that news is cheap, the journalists at The Capital not only worked hard to put out a daily newspaper, but they dedicated themselves to the mission of truth-telling. I continue to learn from and be inspired by Steve, Teri, Josh and the many other staff members that survived the shooting.

If you want to truly honor their memory, my suggestion is that you support the free press, subscribe to your local newspaper, and talk to a journalist. You’ll find that most are eager to listen and seek the truth - even if they're exhausted and overworked.

 

 

 

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