Time magazine has chosen “The Guardians and the War on Truth” for its Person of the Year, and the staff of the Capital Gazette are among those being honored.
The magazine unveiled four covers on Tuesday featuring journalists whose work led to their arrests or their deaths. In addition to the Capital Gazette staff, the honorees include slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi; Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in Myanmar and are represented on the cover in photos held by their wives; and Maria Ressa, editor of the Rappler news website in the Philippines, who is facing up to 10 years in prison.
“The Guardians” were chosen for “taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in an essay about the decision, noting the four journalists and one news organization were chosen to represent the broader fight of journalists around the world.
“It’s a great and terrible honor,” Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell said in an interview. “I hate being the story. I think everyone here would rather that we not be for obvious reasons.”
At least 52 journalists had been killed in 2018 as of Dec. 10, Felsenthal wrote.
Time unveiled its choice Tuesday morning on the “Today” show. Capital Gazette staffers said they had not been told in advance that they would be on the magazine’s cover.
The magazine will hit news stands Friday, and a cover featuring the Capital Gazette staff will be available across the country wherever Time is sold, a spokeswoman for Time said.
It is the first time the magazine honored deceased recipients as Person of the Year.
Hours after the Time announcement, the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism dedicated the Capital Gazette Memorial Seminar Room at Knight Hall.
A memorial plaque in the room, which is used for classes, faculty meetings and seminars, honors each of the late Capital Gazette staff members. Three of the deceased— Fischman, Hiaasen and McNamara — were Merrill College graduates.
Hutzell urged those present to “Remember [the five killed], and remember what they died for.”
He noted that the magazine cover photo features the current staff, not their deceased colleagues. “I almost thought that the five [slain employees] should be on the cover — that they’re the people of the year,” Hutzell said. “Sure, we’ve continued to do our work. They would have done the same.”
The Capital Gazette, which is part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, has continued publishing since the shooting, following the rallying cry that reporter Chase Cook tweeted the day of the attack: “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
“People praised us for doing our job, but it’s more than a job. It sounds corny but we’re in the business of truth and justice, and that’s what we seek,” Hutzell said. “Communities that have local journalism are fewer than they used to be. And those that have it are better for it and those without it are poorer for it.”
Current Capital Gazette staff and family of the slain journalists spoke to Time this month about the importance of community news.
“I think a lot of people don’t understand how important what goes on in their community is to them and how it affects their quality of life — maybe until it’s gone,” said Andrea Chamblee, McNamara’s wife of 33 years.
Capital reporter Selene San Felice, who survived the shooting, told Time the attack would not stop her from reporting and seeking truth.
“Community journalists are the only ones who are going to go to your kid’s basketball game. They’re the only ones who are going to cover lifeguard training,” she said.
In the wake of his colleagues’ deaths, Hutzell charged journalists everywhere to continue pressing leaders on how to end mass gun violence “until we find an answer.”
“I think about what the community’s lost with their death. I think about what the families have lost, and none of this will change any of that,” Hutzell said. “But it can’t be forgotten.”
The other journalists honored by Time include Khashoggi, an outspoken Saudi dissident and Post columnist who was murdered inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2. The killing is suspected to have been ordered by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His assassination came long after the imprisonment of Reuters journalists Lone, 32, and Oo, 28. The pair were detained one year ago — Dec. 12, 2017 — and in September were sentenced to seven years for documenting the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims.
Ressa, founder and editor of the Philippine website Rappler, could face up to 10 years in prison for tax fraud charges brought against the site by the Philippine government. Rappler has covered the deadly drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Runners-up for the annual designation included President Donald Trump, families that were separated at the U.S. border, March for our Lives activists and Christine Blasey Ford.
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.