A Missing Memorial
Nuns, soldiers, and sailors have them; scientists and orators have them; presidents have them. They mark historic moments and historic figures. They are the memorials and monuments of Washington, DC. There is even a marker monument designating the point from which all road distances were measured when it was dedicated more than three-quarters of a century ago.
But among all of these heroes, heroines, and heroic moments honored, one remains missing: a memorial to journalists. The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation would like to see those who sacrifice in the name of news honored by a memorial in our nation’s capital.
The News Media Alliance reminded us late last year that slowly progressing through Congress is a bill (HR3465, S.1969), “Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019,” introduced by Rep Grace Napolitano (D-CA32), Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tom Cole (R-OK) on June 25, 2019. The latest action on this bill occurred December 4, 2019, when the subcommittee on National Parks, Forest, and Public Lands hearings were held.
PBS reported the end of last year that 53 journalists had died “in retaliation for their work” in 2018, nationwide and worldwide. This bill was introduced just one year after the Annapolis, Md., murder of five editors and reporters in their offices at The Capital Gazette. And who can forget the horror of Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder in Saudi Arabia just four months later?
In our small town, reporters feel relatively secure from the threat of retaliation. But journalists die every day as they cover the news — storms do not discern news gatherer from wheat gatherer; travel by land or air puts a reporter at as much risk as any other traveler; accidents happen — and unstable people can turn a fine day into a nightmare, anywhere, anytime.
In an op-ed provided by Barbara Cochran, president of the FJM Foundation, Curtis B. Hurley Chair of Public Affairs Journalism at Missouri School of Journalism, and former vice president of news at NPR, she assures, “To make this memorial a reality, federal legislation is needed but federal funds will not be used. The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 would authorize the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation to lead the effort to design, develop, construct, and maintain a memorial on federal land in Washington, DC. The memorial would be funded entirely by private donations and without the use of any taxpayer funds.” (See her entire op-ed in our November 29, 2019 print edition.)
Certainly there has been enough to distract Congress these past months, but we hope this bill does not fall by the wayside. To support the creation of a Fallen Journalists Memorial, remind your representatives in Congress (202-225-3121, www.house.gov) and senators (202-224-3121; www.senate.gov) that this bill needs continued attention.
Journalism is dedicated to the freedom of speech and providing the public with factual information for thoughtful decision making and public safety. To honor those who have lived and died by their words, this memorial is one we can get behind.