A re­minder of jour­nal­ism’s value

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COMMENTARY - By David Dreier

This week marks the first an­niver­sary of the dead­li­est assault against jour­nal­ists in U.S. his­tory. On June 28, 2018, a gun­man opened fire at the of­fices of the Cap­i­tal Gazette in An­napo­lis, killing five and in­jur­ing two. We will al­ways re­mem­ber Rob Hi­aasen, Wendi Win­ters, Ger­ald Fis­chman, John McNa­mara and Re­becca Smith, as well as the brave women and men who sur­vived the at­tack and im­me­di­ately went back to work serv­ing their com­mu­nity.

These deaths are not iso­lated. Every year, hun­dreds of jour­nal­ists are at­tacked, im­pris­oned and mur­dered around the world. Some are killed be­cause of what they do.

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Ja­mal Khashoggi and the Wall Street Jour­nal’s Daniel Pearl are among the vic­tims. Sadly, as we saw last year at the Cap­i­tal Gazette, Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists are vul­ner­a­ble to reprisals for their work on U.S. soil. Other tragedies have included the 2015 fa­tal shoot­ing of re­porter Ali­son Parker and cam­era­man Adam Ward of Roanoke, Vir­ginia’s WDBJ TV and the 2001 an­thrax death of photo-jour­nal­ist Robert Stevens of The Sun news­pa­per in Boca Ra­ton, Florida.

Oth­ers have per­ished be­cause of where they are. Through­out his­tory, jour­nal­ists have been on the front lines of con­flicts from World War II to Iraq. Ernie Pyle, Michael Kelly and David Bloom are among the jour­nal­ists who per­ished in the quest to keep the pub­lic in­formed about the move­ments and ac­tions of our mil­i­tary.

No mat­ter the cir­cum­stances of their deaths, these jour­nal­ists and their sac­ri­fices de­serve to be re­mem­bered. In a free so­ci­ety, a free press is a ba­sic tenet. The fourth es­tate acts as both an ex­pres­sion and a guardian of liberty. That’s why we are be­gin­ning a cam­paign to erect a mon­u­ment to fallen jour­nal­ists in our na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The Tribune Pub­lish­ing fam­ily is grate­ful to Sen­a­tors Ben Cardin, a Mary­land Demo­crat; and Ohio Repub­li­can Rob Portman, along with Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Grace Napoli­tano, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat; and Kevin Hern, an Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can, who have in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to es­tab­lish the Fallen Jour­nal­ists Memo­rial in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The memo­rial will pay trib­ute to the jour­nal­ists who have sac­ri­ficed their lives in the name of a free press.

We have es­tab­lished the Fallen Jour­nal­ists Memo­rial Foundation under the aus­pices of the non-profit Na­tional Press Club Jour­nal­ism In­sti­tute. The Foundation will build sup­port and plan for the de­sign, con­struc­tion, oper­a­tion, main­te­nance and preser­va­tion of the memo­rial. Ini­tial fund­ing is be­ing pro­vided by the An­nen­berg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation.

The safety of jour­nal­ists in the U.S. and around the world must be a pri­or­ity be­cause big­ger val­ues are at stake.

“Mur­der is a form of bru­tal cen­sor­ship that is dis­rupt­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion,” said Joel Si­mon of the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists. “Peo­ple around the world are in­creas­ingly rec­og­niz­ing what’s at stake. Political lead­ers must stand up, speak out, and de­liver jus­tice on be­half of the jour­nal­ists who gave their lives to bring us the news.”

This is a call to ac­tion. We must honor the memories of the jour­nal­ists who have per­ished so that they can serve as a re­minder of the es­sen­tial value of jour­nal­ism to our democ­racy.

David Dreier is Chair­man of Tribune Pub­lish­ing Co. and the Fallen Jour­nal­ists Memo­rial Foundation, fal­l­en­jour­nal­ists.org

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