Bay Area journalists remember Capital Gazette editor and speak about safety concerns

The killing of five staff members at the Capital Gazette newspaper has sent shock waves of grief through the community of Annapolis, Maryland and touched people in the San Francisco Bay Area who knew one of the victims. 

Capital Gazette editor Rob Hiaasen was a John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University in 2004. The director Dawn Garcia said Friday that she remembered Hiaasen as a "gentle giant" who had a great sense of humor.

"He was a great storyteller and talented writer and really devoted to journalism and his family," said Garcia. "But he was just the kind of person who seemed to love journalism and loved what he did, and also made you feel very special when you were with him."

For fellow journalists around the nation there is heightened concern about safety in a profession that is increasingly targeted and vilified. 

Khalida Sarwari, a reporter with the Bay Area News Group, says she never thought of personal safety when she started off as a reporter a decade ago.

"You know you're not going to be paid well, but safety, you never think is something you need to worry about and now I think it is," said Sarwari.

John Temple, a Director of Investigative Reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism wrote in a blog Friday, recognizing the victims and noting the important role local journalists play in their communities. 

"They're sort of the foot-soldiers of the democracy," Temple said. "They do the work for all the rest of us so that we can understand the communities we live in and it's not glamorous. I wanted to celebrate those people and not have it be remembered as just a day of blood and violence." 

The victims' colleagues worked through their grief to put out a paper despite the shocking loss, an inspiration to U.C. Berkeley students who run the Daily Californian newspaper.

"I really value journalism so much and I definitely would like to pursue this field," said Harini Shyamsundar, a U.C. Berkeley senior and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Californian. "It's something that's always changing but at the end the day I think what we're doing hasn’t changed. At the end of the day, we're putting information out there so that people have it. We're doing our civic duty by being journalists."