Liam Farrell '04 | July 12, 2018
The last conversation I vividly remember with Rob Hiaasen happened seven and a half years before he was murdered in the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland.
It was December 2010, and I was a young Capital reporter wrapping up a weekend shift nicknamed “Horrors” for the stories it produced on the mayhem that floats beneath any decently sized community. Since so many people at the paper had recently been laid off or just not replaced — we lost about a third of the company in a single day during the Great Recession — I had also just come back from covering Annapolis’ annual Christmas light boat parade, wherein locals deck their nautical halls and lazily turn about in the harbor.
I sat down in Rob’s office and told him I wanted to talk to him. He joked that I must be resigning and laughed when I responded that, if I had been quitting, I would have done it before heading out into the cold to cover a boat parade.
The actual substance of our meeting doesn’t matter. I had various gripes about recent company decisions, but really I was just burnt out and unpleasant after years of working at a resource-strapped local newspaper. Even at my best, I inhabit the category of writer whose caustic personality traits are in a delicate balance with the benefits of what I produce for the page; that day, I certainly was not at my best.
All to say, it would have been perfectly within Rob’s rights to tell the entitled 28-year-old in front of him to suck it up and stop whining. But he didn’t. He listened and made me feel better. We commiserated over the slow decline of our industry. We got back to work.
A couple of months later, I did resign, to take a job at Notre Dame. I can’t remember if I said goodbye to Rob on my last day, or if I thanked him for being warm and welcoming in a cold and lonely time. Or if I thanked him for showing me kindness when I didn’t deserve it.
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