Capital Gazette Photographer Remembers Newsroom Shooting Victim While Reporting Without Her

For many years, Joshua McKerrow had reported on the Maryland governor's holiday decorations with Wendi Winters for the Capital Gazette — except for this year, when Winters was killed in a mass shooting

What to Know

  • Writer Wendi Winters was one of five people killed when a gunman opened fire at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis on June 28
  • Photographer Joshua McKerrow reported with Winters every year and posted tweets about reporting without her this year
  • He responded to President Trump's tweet about "fake news," saying that Winters "was no ones enemy"

As the holidays near, many people decorate their homes with festive trees and ornaments — reminders of the celebrations to come. But for some, these cheerful adornments are reminders of what has been lost. 

Joshua McKerrow is a photojournalist for the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland. He visited Gov. Larry Hogan’s residence on Thursday to take pictures for the paper of Hogan's holiday decorations. McKerrow said he’s done this “every year, for years” and called it “a very light but very fun story.” 

However, McKerrow said his annual assignment was different this time. 

“Every year my reporting partner was Wendi Winters,” McKerrow wrote in a series of tweets Thursday that came as a response to President Donald Trump again calling fake news the enemy of the people. “This year, it was Selene. Wendi was murdered in June.” 

Baltimore Sun Media Group
This photo provided by the Baltimore Sun Media Group shows Wendi Winters, reporter for the Capital Gazette, who was killed by a gunman at the paper's newsroom on June 28, 2018.

Winters, a community writer, was one of five people killed when a gunman stormed the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis and opened fired on June 28. Editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, editor Gerald Fischman, sports writer John McNamara and sales assistant Rebecca Smith also died in the mass shooting, what one reporter described as a “war zone.” 

The shooter had an ongoing dispute with the paper after a July 2011 story detailed a criminal harassment case against him. He sued the paper’s writer and publisher for defamation, but the case was thrown out after a judge ruled that the story was based on public record and there was no evidence suggesting it was inaccurate. The publisher later told police that the man began harassing newspaper staff, and he also posted tweets attacking the paper. Police said the gunman sent threatening letters in the days before the shooting as well. 

Capital Gazette intern Anthony Messenger spoke with the "Today" show just a day after five people were killed in the newspaper's newsroom in a "targeted" shooting spree.

On Thursday, nearly six months after the deadly attack, McKerrow said he took his camera through the rooms of the governor’s brightly lit and colorful home, “focusing on the trees and the ornaments.” But there was something — or someone — missing. 

“All I could think about was Wendi,” McKerrow wrote in his Twitter thread. “I felt like she was with me, that she was actually present.” 

McKerrow said he could feel Winters in his mind and could “almost hear her voice echoing through the empty rooms.” 

“How many cookies are you making this year?” was her favorite question to ask for the holiday report, McKerrow said. 

[DC-NATL] Shooting at Capital Gazette Newsroom in Annapolis Leaves Multiple Dead

Despite Winters’ noticeable absence for McKerrow, he said he managed to keep himself together for the photoshoot. That is, he said, “till the very end.” 

“Interviewed the butler, like I have every year, and when we were done she took me aside and whispered, ‘I really miss Wendi. Next Year I’m going to name a cookie for her,’” McKerrow wrote. “And that was it. The tears started, and I’m standing in the Maryland Governors home weeping to myself about my dead friend, … shot by a man who wanted to kill every journalist he could.” 

McKerrow shared his story in a response to a tweet from President Donald Trump the same day. That one-line tweet repeated a phrase the president commonly uses to attack journalists and media organizations: “FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

“Wendi was no ones enemy,” McKerrow wrote in a single tweet in his thread.

The day after the shooting, Trump condemned the gunman's actions as "horrific" and said that journalists "should be free from fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs." However, he continued his attacks on the "fake news" less than a month later.

Hundreds of newsrooms across the country pushed back against Trump in the aftermath of the shooting by publishing a coordinated series of editorials. The pieces argued for a free press and said newspapers are not the enemy.

At a Friday press conference, President Donald Trump condemned Thursday’s attack on The Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland.

After crying "on and off" on Thursday, McKerrow said he is "comforted that in a way she's still with me, when I do the work that she loved to do." That work, he said, is "Journalism. Patriotic, truth telling, American."

McKerrow concluded: "We'll keep on doing the work. And if we die for it, someone else will pick up the threads, and report on the holiday decorations at the Governor's house. Its what we do."

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