“Covering the Capitol Siege: This Could Get Ugly.”

From a New York Times story by Katie Robertson and Tiffany Hsu headlined “11 Journalists on Covering the Capitol Siege: ‘This Could Get Ugly'”:

Reporters knew before they arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday that there would be large protests in support of President Trump. But most expected the day’s main event to be the drama and ceremony of the nation’s leaders debating the ratification of the Electoral College vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the next president.

The journalists ended up chronicling a siege that underscored the fragility of American democracy. Many did their jobs a few feet from drawn weapons. Others faced the wrath of pro-Trump agitators with a grudge against the news media.

We interviewed 11 journalists from a variety of outlets — including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the British channel ITV and the Beltway news site Axios — who covered the events. The interviews have been edited and condensed.

April Ryan, 53, White House correspondent, TheGrio: I woke up around 6 at home in the Baltimore area. My kids, 13 and 18, were in their room, doing Zoom. I was in the den and the office, working the phones, not really expecting anything big, thinking it was just going to be a lot of posturing.

Chad Pergram, 51, congressional correspondent, Fox News: My wife dropped me off on Independence Avenue, and right as I got out of the car, you could feel the tension, because there were protesters everywhere.

Kadia Goba, Axios: My seat in the gallery was directly over Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I saw a picture online of the protesters in front of the building. At this point, all of the members are in debate mode, seemingly oblivious to what was going on.

Robert Moore, 57, Washington correspondent, ITV News: We were standing to one side of the inauguration platform that Joe Biden will use on Jan. 20, and there was a small corridor that was unguarded by police. So they charged up there and, rather improbably, discovered there was a tiny side entrance, also apparently unguarded. They broke the window, forced open the door. And there they were, in the corridors of power, astonished themselves that they got that far.

Kadia Goba, Axios: Capitol Police came on the speaker to say there had been a breach. You go in this marble building, it seems sacred to the people that work there. You just don’t think of intruders gaining access to that portion of the building.

Tia Mitchell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: I guess the adrenaline of being a news reporter started to kick in. My roots are in covering the night cop shift in Jacksonville, Fla. So I go into breaking-news mode. When they stopped proceedings on the floor, that’s when we knew it was escalating.

Mike Theiler, Reuters: All my professionalism from 50 years of photography kind of takes over. I started shooting, knowing deep down that you can’t make a bad picture in a situation like that. There were maybe 20 of the rioters in the hallway and only a handful of police trying to restrain them. That’s when I saw that the guy with a Confederate flag had kind of moved off by himself. I’m thinking in the context of — we’re in this hallowed hallway, with the gilded framed paintings on the wall, the bust, the kind of thing that speaks to anyone who has ever been to the Capitol, and I kind of isolated him with that in the background.

Tia Mitchell, Atlanta-Journal Constitution: Capitol Police told us the protesters were in the rotunda. And then they said to put on the gas masks. We’re trying to figure out how to open the darn things, and maybe that was a sign that we were nervous.

Kadia Goba, Axios: There was an announcement that tear gas had been dispensed. I turned around and gallery staff were handing out gas masks. The protesters were knocking on the doorboom, boom — echoing throughout the chamber. The bangs were getting louder and louder, and then you hear glass.

J. Scott Applewhite, A.P.: Next thing you hear, someone is starting to break the glass of the door. I have a telephoto lens, and I’m focused on that door. It’s maybe 50 feet away. So at 2:39 p.m., there were several plainclothes police gathered around the inside of the door of the chamber. It just has a lock on it. A couple of the officers bring a heavy piece of furniture and set it on top of another piece of furniture, and now the windows of the door are barricaded up about halfway.

At 2:40 p.m., they started to break the glass. At 2:40 p.m., plainclothes officers about 10 feet from the door have now started to take out their guns. The officers are telling them to get back. The standoff continues, and I can start to see a man’s face. The officers are talking to him through the broken glass. They kept telling him, “You can walk away from this, you don’t want to do this.” By 2:54 p.m. the mob has retreated. At this point I started taking pictures of all the empty seats in the chamber with the scattering of debris.

Robert Moore, ITV: Once we were in Congress itself with the group that we followed in, we simply filmed and spoke to them as they, I think it’s fair to say, rampaged. There were people who asked which organization we were with. We explained calmly that we were a British TV network and we were there to record a moment in history.

There were a few flashes of anger. But I’ve covered wars and disasters around the world for nearly 30 years, and I never felt in danger personally. I actually watched them, with my own eyes, tear down Nancy Pelosi’s nameplate off the wall above the door that enters her office. That was a moment that I thought, “Gosh, this could get ugly and violent.”

Zoeann Murphy, 39, video journalist, The Washington Post: We arrived on the north of the Capitol around 4. I had been assessing what gear to bring with me. I have body armor and a helmet and a gas mask and a first aid kit — and it became clear that all of those things should be coming with me.

Megan Pratz, Cheddar: We stood in the designated press area on the east side of the Capitol, in the area we call the House Elm. Throughout all of this, people were stopping to criticize the media, calling us fake news and liars, the stuff I’m kind of used to. But after people started leaving the Capitol, it really ramped up. They were calling us communist; they told me that they were coming for me. Then there were 20 to 30 people who started coming into the area, surrounding each journalist and screaming at us, these hateful, hateful things. You couldn’t see a Capitol Police officer anywhere. That was when we decided we were no longer safe.

Donie O’Sullivan, CNN: I asked folks were they proud of what they had done. And they said they were very proud and viewed themselves as the patriots, and that the people who accepted the legitimate results of the election were the traitors, which was quite surreal.

Marcus DiPaola, freelance journalist: Around 8, the police start kettling the media, and I was like, “Time to go.” I got back to the apartment and had pretzels and a lot of cookies and a pint of mango sorbet and a pint of NatureSweet Cherubs grape tomatoes. I turned on the TV and realized the historical implications of what I had just witnessed. My first thought was: “How in the world do we fix this? These people have been duped — people just aren’t taught to process information and assess its credibility.” And I remember feeling a complete hopelessness.

Tia Mitchell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: They let us back into the gallery, and at 8:10 the Senate got back to work. Right off the bat, Kelly Loeffler made a speech where she said she would no longer object to Georgia’s electoral vote being counted for Biden.

Megan Pratz, Cheddar: I probably went to bed around 10. I woke up several times throughout the night. The only thing I kept saying to my husband was “It’s hard to be hated this much.”

Robert Moore, ITV: I went to sleep around 3 or 4 a.m. and was up a couple of hours later. What has surprised me is the level of interest in Europe, and in Britain in particular, with the events here. This is seen as a seminal story, one that shatters the myth about the stability of American democracy.

Kadia Goba, Axios: I was there till nearly 4 a.m., when Pence gaveled out. I went straight home. My friend was up and happy to hear from me, so we talked for 49 minutes. I still had adrenaline pumping.

J. Scott Applewhite, A.P.: I returned with my gear to my office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. I had some soup, and I had an avocado and some nice tomatoes. I keep a little foldout chair, so I spread that out and slept between 5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Katie Robertson is a media reporter. She previously worked as an editor and reporter at Bloomberg and News Corporation Australia.

Tiffany Hsu is a media reporter for the business desk, focusing on advertising and marketing. Previously, she covered breaking business news. Before joining The Times, she wrote about the California economy for The Los Angeles Times.

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