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Editorial: More Than Numbers

It would be nice if May 14 were the last time the Newseum added new names to its memorial to fallen journalists. But that won’t happen as long as war continues to be such a popular means of conflict resolution. 3/05/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Sadly, it is time again to remind everyone how tough
and dangerous and necessary the news business is.

Last week, Washington, D.C.’s Newseum set May 14 as the date for rededicating
its memorial to fallen journalists. The memorial is a room whose walls are
filled with too many names, a total that keeps increasing every year.

The rededication will be for those journalists killed in 2011, but by May 14,
it will already be chillingly out of date.

Just watch the video of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, her familiar eye
patch the result of a 2001 Sri Lankan ambush, reporting on CNN about a dead
child, collateral damage in the Syrian uprising.

The next day, Colvin was gone in an attack on a makeshift pressroom.

Also killed in the Syrian attack two weeks ago was Rémi Ochlik, a 28-yearold,
award-winning French photojournalist. There were several injuries as well
in the wake of the attack in the city of Homs; by some accounts, the journalists
were targeted because they were trying to tell the story of the mass killings there.

Following that violence, there were calls for an immediate cease-fire in Syria, if
only so that the bodies of the dead could be removed and the injured journalists
given medical attention. Instead, a Syrian vidoegrapher, Anas al-Tarsh, was killed
in more shelling, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists—and that
followed the killing a week before of Syrian videographer Rami al-Sayed. Last
week, the bloodshed intensified; one of the injured journalists, British photographer
Paul Conroy, had to be smuggled out of the country, according to the BBC.

The CPJ reports that 11 journalists have already died in the line of duty in
2012. That number was nine when this editorial was begun last week, and does
not include six more suspicious deaths the CPJ has not been able to confirm.
In 2011, there were 46 journalist deaths confirmed to be related to their work,
with another 35 deaths of journalists for which motives could not be confirmed.

The dead are broadcast, online and print reporters, commentators, columnists,
videographers, photographers, producers, technicians and, yes, editors
and publishers.

Journalists help bring a face and a story to War, with a capital W, by bringing
it down to the lower-case scale of the many individual lives it destroys. Unrest
in Syria can be too easily dismissed as international white noise. The words and
pictures of a beautiful, innocent child dying in front of our eyes cannot be.

It is the ability and willingness of journalists to risk their lives to humanize such
tragedy that can change hearts and minds. Bob Woodruff, Kimberly Dozier, Lara Logan
and the late David Bloom, James Brolan and Paul Douglas are just some of the broadcast
and cable journalists who have looked at war and refused to turn away from it.

It would be nice if May 14 were the last time the Newseum added new names
to its memorial. But that won’t happen as long as war continues to be such a
popular means of conflict resolution.

Until that changes, the mainstream media will keep putting themselves in
harm’s way so that we can be moved, and perhaps moved to action, by the death
of a single child.

 

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