ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Wendi Winters was assigned to report on Davis’ Pub on Friday. The owner, Kevin Colbeck, told me she had pitched them an interview about life at a beloved local hangout; the bar is like “the Cheers of Annapolis,” one bartender told me. These kinds of stories were a regular part of Winters’s beat. The 65-year-old veteran reporter most enjoyed writing her column on the “teen of the week,” her daughter told me, and a recent series on “off-limits” places.
But Winters will never write that story. On Thursday, she was one of five employees shot and killed at the offices of the Capital Gazette, Annapolis’s local newspaper. Keith Cyphers, an insurance salesman who works across the hall from the paper, described what he remembers seeing through the glass doors of his office. “There’s a guy, he’s got a ponytail. He’s wearing this outfit that makes him look like a video-game soldier character,” Cyphers told me. “He’s got, like, the tactical pants on, and they’re tucked into his black boots, and he’s wearing a black T-shirt, and he’s got these amber shooting glasses on. And he’s holding this enormous, black gun.”
On Thursday night, local residents wrestled with what it means to be swept up into a narrative: about mass shootings, about violence against the media, about the toxic and divisive culture of the U.S. Within hours of the shooting—with many facts still unknown—that kind of punditry had already begun. But just like the surviving Capital Gazette reporters, who got to work covering their own story right away, people in Annapolis are straining to prevent this shooting from becoming just another talking point. To keep control of the story. To stay local.