John McNamara: A Tribute to the Slain Capital Gazette Writer

john mcnamara

Twitter John McNamara of the Capital Gazette.

John McNamara, a widely respected and admired veteran reporter at the Capital Gazette newspapers and editor of other local papers, was among those killed Thursday when a gunman opened fire in the paper’s newsroom.

McNamara’s decades-long career included coverage of University of Maryland football and basketball, among other topics. He was remembered for his decades-long contribution to local newspapers, especially sports reporting. On social media, he advocated for gun control and spoke out against President Donald Trump. He was one of five people shot dead when a gunman burst into the Annapolis, Maryland newsroom on June 28, 2018.

What follows is a look at his career and accomplishments:

Here’s what you need to know:

1. McNamara Was Remembered for His Love of Sports Reporting, His Wit & His Versatility

Tributes poured in for John McNamara. “At a small paper like that, you have to be versatile,” a former Capital Gazette editor said. “He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person.”

A profile story in the Baltimore Sun described how McNamara switched from copy editing to sports reporting, which was his greatest journalistic passion.

McNamara was 56-years-old and known as Mac. According to the Sun, he was “remembered by his colleagues for his flexibility, concise writing and extensive knowledge of regional sports. He had a razor wit.”

Reporter Claudia Rosenbaum wrote on Twitter, “I worked with John McNamara at a small local Maryland paper when I was starting out. He was the sports editor. I remember speaking to him about becoming a sports writer, even though I had no knowledge or interest in sports. Despite all that, he still encouraged me. Very sad.”

Another wrote, “John McNamara was the true essence of journalism -unbiased, strictly to inform the public type of storyteller. He was a really good guy. This is devastating. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones. But it feels like prayers are just not enough.”

“The summer I spent learning the ropes from Jerry and John McNamara made me the writer I am today. The Capital is a proving ground for aspiring journalists. I can never thank them for taking a chance on me when they did,” wrote Christopher Boan on Twitter.

McNamara weighed in on current topics on Facebook, writing recently, “To anyone reading this: I cannot urge you strongly enough to see the two documentaries now out featuring Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Mr. Rogers. Seeing these two films will do you some serious good. Both are marvelous and moving. And, in these troubled times, when the forces of darkness seem to have gained the upper hand, it’s nice to be reminded that there is still justice and kindness in the world. You can thank me later …”

A post on June 19, 2018 read simply:

On June 4, 2018, he quoted Theodore Roosevelt on Facebook, writing, “No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.”

Sometimes he got political:

Sometimes he just wrote about journalism. One such comment: “Writing for a newspaper is like having a paper due every day of your life …”

In 2017, he quoted Robert F. Kennedy, writing, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

He shared a Washington Post article, writing, “A sobering look at the gun problem in the DC area, told by following the trail of one gun. A good argument for greater gun control if ever there was one …”

He was from Bethesda, Maryland, according to his Facebook page.

2. John McNamara Was a Veteran Journalist Who Worked in the Local Newspaper Industry for 20 Years

john mcnamara

John McNamara

According to his biography on the newspaper’s website, “John McNamara is the editor of the Bowie Blade-News and the Crofton-West County Gazette. He has worked in various capacities for Capital Gazette for more than 20 years.” His LinkedIn page says he is a sports writer for Capital Gazette newspapers, where he worked for more than 23 years.

Although he is generally a sports writer, McNamara has written about other topics, including a 2015 story on the confederate flag. It states, “Most stories have two sides. This one has three. On one side is Bowie resident Linwood Holmes, who raised a Confederate flag in front of his house on Belair Drive just about the time the same flag was coming down from the South Carolina statehouse. On another are some of his neighbors, who don’t like what the flag represents or the message it sends. On the third are city officials who would like to see the flag disappear. They know of no other places in Bowie where the flag is displayed.” The article dates to 2015. It’s headlined, Confederate Flag Causes Stir in Bowie.

He has written about many topics, though, including a story on a local resident who made it big. That story started, “Lana Turner, the famed femme fatal actress of the 1940s and ’50s, gained her entrée to the film industry when she got discovered at a Hollywood malt shop. For Bowie native Daniel Bowie, his big break came at the Apple Store in Westfield Annapolis mall.”

“Beat reporter for University of Maryland athletics and Orioles minor league system. Cover all metro area professional sports. Planning, editing and page design for daily sports section,” McNamara described himself online. “Voter, representing Maryland, in AP College Basketball poll.”

According to the site College Poll Tracker, “John McNamara covers Maryland basketball and football for the Annapolis Capital, where he has worked for the last 19 years. Prior to that, he worked for the Prince George’s Journal and the Hagerstown Morning Herald after graduating with a degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland in 1983.”

McNamara is also the author of several books about Maryland sports, namely Maryland basketball and football. The books are for sale on Amazon.

3. McNamara Recently Tweeted About Inauguration Crowds & Retweeted David Hogg But Mostly Focused on Sports

John McNamara was active on Twitter, and his most recent tweet read, “Video evidence confirms it! Mob tonight outside Capital One Arena even bigger than inauguration crowd! #Stanley Cup #Capitals #CapitalPride.” That post dates to June 7, but he mostly tweeted about sports.

He recently retweeted a post from Parkland, Florida student turned gun control activist David Hogg. “Let’s make a deal DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed. These politions won’t listen to us so maybe the’ll listen to the billion dollar tourism industry in FL. #neveragain,” read the tweet that McNamara shared.

McNamara also retweeted a post from another writer who wrote, “This country loves guns more than it loves children. I don’t know how to change that,” followed up by a person’s remark, “You can’t.” However, almost all of his other tweets revolved around sports, not political commentary.

4. McNamara Was a Published Author Interested in Local History

On his LinkedIn page, John McNamara described himself by writing, “Professional expertise: Published author and journalist covering:

* NCAA sports, especially the Atlantic Coast Conference and the University of Maryland.
* Washington, D.C.-Baltimore metro area professional sports, including the Nationals, Orioles, Redskins, Ravens, Wizards, and Caps.
* I also have an interest in local history, specifically as it relates to local high school sports.”

There are reports that a gunman is in custody, although this was unconfirmed. The suspect’s name is not clear, and the motive is not yet known either. “Active Shooter in #Annapolis. PIO is on scene,” the Anne Arundel Police Department confirmed. The Capital Gazette, even while under fire, managed to get a breaking news story on its website reporting the situation. “Phil Davis, a Gazette reporter, said that multiple people had been shot. Police did not immediately respond to requests for further information,” the story reports.

On LinkedIn, McNamara described a career devoted to the craft of local journalism. His career dates back to the 1980s. He described his other experience before Capital Gazette as follows:

Staff writer, Sports editor
Company Name Journal Newspapers (PG)
Dates Employed Dec 1989 – Nov 1994 Employment Duration 5 yrs
Location Lanham, Md.
Daily morning paper for Prince George’s County (Maryland)

Annapolis Capital
Copy editor
Company Name Annapolis Capital
Dates Employed Sep 1987 – Dec 1989 Employment Duration2 yrs 4 mos
Location Annapolis, Md.
Daily newspaper for the state capital of Maryland

The Herald-Mail
Sports writer
Company Name The Herald-Mail
Dates Employed Aug 1983 – Sep 1987 Employment Duration 4 yrs 2 mos
Location Hagerstown, Md.
Daily newspaper for the tri-state area, including western Maryland, south-central Pennsylvania and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia

According to the newspaper’s website, the intern who tweeted about McNamara, Anthony Messenger, “is a summer reporting intern at The Capital. He is a rising senior at Salisbury University, majoring in media production with a minor in athletic coaching. Messenger has been co-editor of Rubbing the Rock, a website covering Clemson University athletics, for the past two years.”

Most recently, Messenger was covering early voting issues, based on his tweets.

5. McNamara Was a College Newspaper Editor Who Also Worked for His High School Newspaper in D.C.

John McNamara

John McNamara

McNamara got his start in journalism in high school. According to his LinkedIn page, he attended the University of Maryland College Park, where he received a journalism degree, in 1983.

Activities and Societies while there included the Diamondback Newspaper. He was president of the University of Maryland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a staff writer for The Diamondback, which is a student newspaper.

He attended St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., class of 1979. He was editor in chief of the high school newspaper and a member of the Sabre Newspaper National Honor Society.