Dozens of journalists die every year while doing their jobs, reporting on stories from the most troubled regions of the world. Fourteen of those who died last year — a small fraction of the total — were remembered this week in an annual ceremony at the Newseum, a journalism museum in Washington.
On Monday, for the first time in its history, the Newseum blacked out its popular “Today’s Front Pages” exhibit, replacing it with pages featuring the hashtag “Without News” and photographs of the 14 journalists being added to its Journalists’ Memorial. They represent the 80 journalists the Committee to Protect Journalists says died last year while performing their jobs.
The keynote speaker, Associated Press correspondent Kathy Gannon, said it’s a miracle that she is not on the list. She was shot and wounded while covering preparations for elections in Afghanistan.
"I am hugely grateful to be here when so many of our collogues and friends are not," she said.
An Afghan police commander opened fire on Gannon and her colleague Anja Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who died instantly.
Gannon went through 15 surgeries and faces at least one more, but she is going to return to the conflict zone. "I want to report," she said. "I have lots of stories in my head that I want to do, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
Gene Policinski, the Newseum's chief operating officer, said that without such people, the news from places of disaster and conflict might not get out at all, and "certainly not with the quality, the depth that these journalists provide us with. We may know of a natural disaster, we may know of a conflict zone ... Ebola … but we would not know about the human suffering, the human angle.”
Many freelancers were among the journalists who died last year, since many major media companies and news agencies are turning to freelancers to cut costs.
Among these independent journalists were James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were executed by Islamic State militants in Syria. Sotloff’s mother, Shirley, talked about a message he smuggled out before he died.
“ 'Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.' These are the words my late son, Steven Joel Sotloff, wrote during his 13 months of captivity," she said. "Steven began to accept that he would not return home, that his first life he had relished and lived to the fullest was coming to an end. His second life began. He urged his family not to grieve for him but instead to honor him by cherishing the freedoms we have.”
The CPJ says 11 journalists died last year in Ukraine alone. Among them was Vyacheslav Veremiy, a reporter for the Kyiv-based newspaper Vesti.
As video from a Ukrainian television station appears to show, he was assaulted by a group of armed and masked men whom he had reportedly filmed from a car in downtown Kyiv.
The Journalists’ Memorial in the Newseum now bears the names of 2,271 journalists — killed while doing their jobs around the world — dating to 1837.