National News

‘Please Help Us’: As Shots Rang Out, Journalists Took to Twitter

Posted June 28, 2018 11:19 p.m. EDT

Anthony Messenger was working as an intern at the Capital Gazette, a local news outlet in Maryland, at 2:43 p.m. Thursday when his Twitter followers received an alarming message:

“Active shooter 888 Bestgate please help us”

A gunman had just entered the newsroom after shooting through the office’s glass door, and Messenger instantly took to social media, sending out the street address as the gunman opened fire. Within minutes, Capital Gazette journalists were receiving messages from friends, colleagues and other news outlets.

Once the shooting stopped, the Capital Gazette staff kept updating the story on social media and posted reporting collected by colleagues at their big-city sister newspaper, The Baltimore Sun.

As the police cleared the office building on the outskirts of Annapolis, workers filed out with their hands above their heads and helicopters circled overhead. Twitter became a place for the journalists to report on developments, locate friends and relatives and vent their frustrations.

Phil Davis, a courts and crime reporter, began tweeting about what it was like to be in the middle of a breaking news story.

“A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.”

“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.”

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”

Joshua McKerrow, a Capital Gazette photojournalist who was away from the office when the shooting started, rushed to the building, tweeting words and photos.

“I am safe. Was not there. On my way to scene.”

“Massive police response to shooting in my newsroom in Annapolis.”

“Police response for shooting in my newsroom.”

Other distant colleagues followed the events on Twitter. Danielle Ohl, a reporter, was on vacation in North Carolina.

“I am OK. I am on vacation in the Outer Banks. I will try to post as I get more information. Please, just pray.”

He later added: “For those reaching out with support, I thank you. For those seeking information, I’m not in a position to speak right now. I will say this: The Capital is not a big newsroom. There are about 20 news staffers, a few more advertising. We are close. We are family. I am devastated.”

Bill Wagner tweeted, “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.”

As news of the shooting spread, friends and acquaintances began reaching out to Capital Gazette employees, offering words of support that were acknowledged on Twitter.

After Cynthia C. tweeted “Sharon, we are praying for you and your office! We hope you are okay! Much love to you!” to employee Sharon Lee Tegler, she responded, “I’m fine as I wasn’t in the building but am worried about friends and colleagues. So nice of you to think of me.”

And former employees expressed shock and grief.

Josh Magness: “A shooting like this at the @capgaznews is utterly heartwrenching. Annapolis is forever my hometown, Maryland forever my state. This is the newspaper I read growing up, the first internship I received, a place I was interviewing for a job last summer. When will this madness stop?”

Christina Jedra: “Processing the shooting at @capgaznews, where there were multiple fatalities. I am shocked and devastated. Sending so much love to my old newsroom and loved ones. I’m so sorry. My heart is broken.”

The Capital Gazette editor, Jimmy DeButts, wrote about his shock and his staff’s commitment to local journalism.

“Devastated & heartbroken. Numb. Please stop asking for information/interviews. I’m in no position to speak, just know @capgaznews reporters & editors give all they have every day. There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays - just a passion for telling stories from our community.”

Joshua McKerrow tipped a hat to their Baltimore Sun colleagues.

“Continuing to cover story with Capital journalists Chase Cook and Pat Ferguson. Thanks to our @baltimoresun colleagues who are here too. There will be a Capital Friday.”

And Chase Cook sent a message of resolve.

“We also don’t know anything about motive in this incident. I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”