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Journalist who wrote about gun violence was killed in mass shooting in Buffalo


The Challenger is a widely circulated, Black-owned newspaper in Buffalo. One of its journalists, Katherine Massey, was killed in the grocery store attack this month that left 10 people dead and three others wounded. NPR's Alana Wise has more.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: Leah Hamilton helps run the newspaper, a family business, alongside her sister and mother. Before the shooting, the Tops grocery store just blocks away was a major distribution center for the free weekly. Hamilton has since been handing out bundles of the paper, 16,000 printed each week, by foot.

LEAH HAMILTON: We distribute, like, about 1,000 papers out of that one location between Thursday and Sunday.

WISE: People ask for the challenger by name.

HAMILTON: So there are people who have never picked up a Challenger before that I'm sure are getting one. You're welcome. And then there are people who are relying on it that would come by the office and get them because they couldn't find them. Would you like a Challenger?

WISE: They comment on the front page portrait of the victims.


HAMILTON: Oops. Sorry. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Have a good weekend. Thank you.

HAMILTON: You, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, that's a beautiful picture, honestly.

WISE: This trip is Hamilton's first time venturing to the memorial that stands in front of Tops.

HAMILTON: Oh, wow. This is overwhelming.

WISE: Here, flowers, balloons and candles commemorate the lives lost. Hamilton describes Massey as the kind of journalist who held others to account. But she never let the tough topics harden her.

HAMILTON: You could feel her warmth coming through that phone because she wanted to make sure we got her article and, you know, just a real solid journalist.

WISE: Hamilton said that one of Massey's main writing subjects was gun violence.

HAMILTON: It's just uncanny that her article about gun control and gun violence - and she was a victim of it. It's just - it's heart wrenching. It tears me up.

WISE: Hamilton talks about how important Kat was for the Challenger, how important the Challenger is for the community.

HAMILTON: Our name says it, community news. So we tell the news. And the community tells the news. And we do this together. We are a unit. And one can't work without the other.

WISE: Kat Massey took that message especially to heart.

HAMILTON: She insisted on being a subscriber. And she insisted on paying for her subscription. I mean, because our writers, you know, we'll send them the paper. But she insisted. She's like, well, I want to make sure I pay. And you can always just feel her kindness and her warmth through the phone, you know? And it's just like, wow. And I was going through the subscriptions and putting the labels on the envelopes, and her label came up. It was just - it was bigger than that moment. It was bigger than the actual thing. It was that family thing I'm talking about, that connection that you have to the people that support what you do, and she did.

WISE: Kat Massey was laid to rest on Monday.

Alana Wise, NPR News, Buffalo, N.Y.

(SOUNDBITE OF OLAFUR ARNALDS' "MOMENTARY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.