Just a few kilometers from Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, where thousands of American soldiers and leaders are buried, is another memorial to fallen members of the press. The Journalists Memorial honors those who died while covering the news. When it opened in 1996, the memorial bore 934 names of journalists from around the world, who died from 1812 through 1995. Since then, names have been added every year in May, listing those who died in the previous year. It now totals nearly 1,500. Although their names will be added next year, the 12 journalists who died covering the Iraq War renewed attention about fallen journalists.
As each of the 31 journalists' names added to the memorial was called, they were punctuated by the toll of chimes. Located outdoors on a bridge spanning a busy street, the Journalists Memorial provides views of Washington's famed monuments across the Potomac River. Listed on the spiraling, glass memorial are familiar names representing the highly-publicized deaths of war correspondents in distant lands- as well as less-familiar ones of those who died in storms covering stories in small-town America.
Joe Urschel, Executive Director of the Freedom Forum Newseum, which established the memorial- noted that many journalists place themselves in danger, sometimes paying with their lives by simply doing their jobs. "The accomplished Reuters reporter Kurt Schork once said, 'War reporting is a job, not a holy crusade," he says. "The thing is to work and not get hurt. When that is no longer possible, it's time to get out. But often, it's impossible to know when that time has come.'"
Although the Journalists Memorial gets most of its visitors on days such as the annual rededication ceremony, it also serves as a place of reflection for journalists' families and friends. The Newseum's Susan Bennett says the structure is sometimes called the 'Vietnam Memorial for Journalists,' referring to the famous black granite memorial. Ms. Bennett adds that, as with the Vietnam Memorial, visitors often leave flowers and other objects at the Journalists Memorial. "We have people who come at all hours to visit the memorial. We had a family from a journalist who was killed in Latin America, and it was their first visit here. He was killed five years ago, and the mother and father came, speaking [little] English," she says. "She wept as she traced her son's name on the memorial. She said it was so wonderful to know that, here in the United States, his work was recognized."
Mr. Urschel says several of this year's fallen journalists were working on stories following up on 9-11 and terrorist activities. "Larry Green of KCBS in Los Angeles, was shooting footage in the Persian Gulf region for a one-year anniversary special on the September 11 attacks, when a military helicopter in which he was riding, crashed in the North Arabian Sea," he says.
One reporter in particular drew attention for his work exploring terrorism.
"Seventeen of the 31 journalists who died last year, lost their lives because of the stories they pursued. They were specifically targeted and murdered. Daniel Pearl was one," says Mr. Urschel. "An accomplished foreign correspondent with the Wall Street Journal , Daniel had gone to Pakistan in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks with his wife and fellow journalist, Marianne. Daniel was working on a story about the links between Islamic militants and international terrorism when he was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan. Daniel, like so many journalists honored today, was mourned around the world."
Daniel Pearl's father, Judea, said that, although journalists may have felt a special connection with his son, the Wall Street Journal correspondent represented many groups. "If you are an American, it was your values and freedoms that were targeted. If you are a journalist, it was your hands that were bound and chained in Karachi on that terrible night. If you are a Muslim, who struggles to lift his countrymen to new opportunities, it was your head that came under the gun in Karachi," he says. "If you are a Jew, it was your voice that blended in the voices of your ancestors in that ultimate affirmation of identity. If you are a decent man anywhere, it was your decency that was betrayed."
The death of 22-year-old Jennifer Hinderliter received far less attention than Daniel Pearl's. Ms. Hinderliter, a reporter for station KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, died along with her cameraman when their car crashed in a huge storm as they returned from covering a story at a ski area. Jennifer's father, Michael, recalls that she was destined to become a reporter. "As a little kid, she was always a show-off, trying to do little skits at home and things," he says. "When she got into high school, she had a teacher at Tech High School, Mr. Oliver, who really encouraged her and took her out of her shyness. He encouraged her to go for it."
Mr. Hinderliter says his daughter died covering the kind of story she liked best: about helping others. "The best of her stories were always about the betterment of people's lives just like the story when she was killed. She was covering the volunteers on Eagle Mount, who had been there for two weeks of training in order for handicapped kids to come up there and do winter sports: skiing, tobaggoning and sledding. They really tugged at her; that's what she wanted to be, somebody like that: an Oprah Winfrey or Barbara Walters that genre she was shooting for," he says.
Last year's journalist deaths included the first casualty of an Internet web reporter, Philippe Wamba. A native of California, Mr. Wamba grew up in Tanzania and studied at Harvard and Columbia Universities in America. He, too, died in an auto accident, while covering stories about youths in Kenya. His mother, Elaine, recalls her son's early interest in the printed word. "He always loved to read. He was a bookworm since he was a very young child. He loved to read and write. We knew that would be the direction he would go. But we didn't know in what direction he would take it," she says. "When he was growing up there [Tanzania], there was official, government and political party newspapers. Then, the whole press scene opened up and he decided this was a very exciting thing and he applied and was accepted to the Columbia School of Journalism."
The families of the fallen journalists say they hope the memorial and the reporters listed on it will serve as an inspiration for future journalists. Judea Pearl read a letter he received after his son's death. "My name is Jennifer and I'm going to become a journalist. For a very long time, I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life. When Daniel's story began unfolding, I realized what passion and courage journalists like him have. I carry a picture of him in my wallet to remind me of why I finally chose to become a journalist," he reads.
Judea Pearl, among the dozens of family members and friends remembering courageous journalists who died while reporting the news. Every year in May, the names of fallen reporters are added to the Journalists Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.