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Capital Gazette Photojournalist Says There Was No Question They Would Put Out A Paper

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

"Five Shot Dead At The Capital" - that's the headline today across the front page of the newspaper of the same name in Annapolis, Md. The victims were editors, writers and a sales assistant. When a gunman entered their building yesterday and started shooting, they became the story their colleagues would be left to cover, colleagues including photojournalist Joshua McKerrow. Last night, he worked on a laptop sitting in the back of a pickup truck to get today's paper out. We reached Joshua McKerrow at his home in Annapolis this afternoon, and I asked him - tell me a story about one of his colleagues who died.

JOSHUA MCKERROW: I mean, I could tell you stories about all of them.

KELLY: Yeah.

MCKERROW: They were all great. Wendi Winters is the journalist that I probably worked the most with my entire career. Just Wednesday, I did two stories with Wendi Winters.

KELLY: What were the stories you were working on together on Tuesday?

MCKERROW: The first story was a weekly feature of ours called the Home of the Week where we go out to just somebody's house, and we take pictures inside the house. They're not mansions or anything like that. It's just people's homes. It's the most consistently popular feature in the newspaper, actually.

KELLY: I am sorry to cause you to relive in any way the events of yesterday, but I want to ask how you heard about what was happening and when you actually showed up on the scene.

MCKERROW: I got a phone call from my editor. He had heard a rumor of what had happened and was trying to track people down. I was traveling on the highway. At about the same instant that I was talking to him on the phone, I saw a fleet of emergency vehicles heading the opposite direction towards Annapolis. And as soon as I saw that, my heart sank. I just knew that something terrible had happened.

KELLY: So what happened? You turned around.

MCKERROW: I turned around as fast as I could. I posted an update on Facebook and Twitter that just said, I'm safe; I wasn't there; I'm on my way. And I drove back to Annapolis.

KELLY: And I saw a bunch of your photos up on the website. It looks like you were straight in there covering the police briefing.

MCKERROW: I shot a bunch and then tweeted a pack of photos and then shot some more. I hooked up with two of my colleagues, Chase Cook and Pat Ferguson. Once I had everything tweeted out, we kind of got together and started trying to find out who was safe.

KELLY: And then take me inside the conversation over, are we going to put out a paper tomorrow or not?

MCKERROW: Oh, there was no decision made. It was, of course we were going to put out a newspaper. I don't think the question even came up that we weren't.

KELLY: I've seen some of the other photos up on y'all's website that shows your colleague - one of your colleague's pickup truck being used as a makeshift desk, laptops - y'all sitting out there trying to write and edit pictures and tweet things out from the truck bed.

MCKERROW: Yeah, that's where we kind of ended up, in the - it was a parking garage directly across the street from the Capital offices. We had the engine running to charge our phones, and we were just kind of propped up. I was on my laptop transmitting photos. Chase Cook was on his phone. And I guess Pat was on his phone, too, transmitting stories.

KELLY: I'm guessing whatever news events you've covered, there's just - can't be anything that prepares you to cover something like this. How did you get through yesterday?

MCKERROW: We worked. I mean, I'm - it's really sad to say. I was prepared for this. I covered the high school shooting a Great Mills High School back in March. And, you know, as a journalist, you know, you cover a lot of crime scenes. It was a bit of a relief to be able to just work. I didn't have to think about, you know, names we couldn't confirm as safe. It was easier just to put your head down and work and cover the story.

KELLY: What are the plans going forward, for getting a newspaper out on Monday? Do you know where y'all will be working?

MCKERROW: I don't know. I know where we're going to be working at the moment, so I'm sure it'll happen. We'll just get back to work. You know, July 4 is next week. We've got to cover the parade.

KELLY: I want to ask you about that editorial page in today's paper, which is almost entirely blank and says, today we are speechless.

MCKERROW: It broke my heart...

KELLY: Yeah.

MCKERROW: ...I mean, to see the names of those people that you've worked with for years. I mean, they weren't people who would have - they were journalists of the community newspaper. They - they're not journalists who want their names in big letters or, you know - they were the journalists that - the engines that make community papers run, that make American journalism run. They would not have wanted to be a story. They would have wanted to cover the story. They would have wanted to get out, you know, the story of our communities and of their neighbors. It's just heartbreaking to see them there so stark like that. It's something I'll never forget.

KELLY: That's Joshua McKerrow. He's a photojournalist at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. Joshua McKerrow, thank you.

MCKERROW: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.