Editor killed in Annapolis shooting remembered by former Raleigh colleagues
Rob Hiaasen, who was killed in a shooting rampage Thursday in Annapolis, Md., was remembered Friday as gregarious, intelligent and a gifted writer by people he used to work with in Raleigh.
A gunman with a grudge against the Capital Gazette newspaper methodically blasted his way through the newsroom with a pump-action shotgun after barricading an exit, killing three editors, a reporter and a sales assistant.
Hiaasen, 59, an assistant editor and Sunday columnist at the Capital Gazette since 2010, worked at WPTF-AM, a news/talk radio station in Raleigh in the mid-1980s.
“We’ve had a lot of great journalists come through these doors in 94 years, and Rob Hiaasen was certainly one of them,” WPTF host Mike Raley said.
“He was a very imposing young man when he came here, and he had the personality to go with it,” Raley said the 25-year-old ace reporter from South Florida who stood 6-foot-5.
“He was always sharing and teaching,” Raley said of Hiaasen, who would later teach narrative journalism as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and serve as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland.
Tony Riggsbee said he hired Hiaasen to handle in-depth and human interest stories.
“Sometimes he would say, ’I’ll get it to you later. I said, ‘That’s fine,’ because he was such a good writer, a wonderful writer,” Riggsbee said. “I think that was more his skill than anything else, that he could really flesh things out but keep it concise at the same time.”
“I could remember him saying, very distinctly, ‘Write short. Write short,’ and that’s the way we do it broadcasting,” Raley said.
“I think the best memory I have of him was the fact that he was part of the only newsroom romance I can ever remember in this facility,” Riggsbee said.
During his one year at WPTF, Hiaasen met Maria Mills, who worked at sister radio station WQDR-FM, and fell in love.
“They went to see a movie together, and they hit it off, and they were married less than a year later,” Riggsbee said.
The couple had three adult children and celebrated their 33rd anniversary last week. Maria Hiaasen’s birthday was Thursday.
“He was the ultimate nice guy, just a warm, infectious personality, and that was one of the greatest couples of all time – Rob and Maria,” Riggsbee said.