James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, was decapitated by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants on a 4:40 minute video this past Tuesday posted on the internet. ISIS claimed that the murder was in retaliation for recent airstrikes by the American military on their forces in Iraq which, but today’s post is not just about Mr. Foley’s tragic death but by the dangers faced by journalists around the world.
It’s about journalists being heroes, and I’m not talking about “talking heads” or, God forbid, pundits. I am speaking about journalists taking dangerous assignments to get to the heart of a story. And I am talking, again, about real journalists who really stick out their necks, not Anderson Cooper or Christine Amanpour or Wolf Blitzer who report miles away from danger.
We would be nowhere without journalists who risk their lives everyday who keep the gate open to dangerous information as “gate-keepers.”
The problem is that in American society the occupation of a journalist is only rated ahead of attorneys in the list of most contemptible occupations. But at the root of this perception is that fact that Americans lump all journalist endeavors together. Thanks to most people not paying attention to the news, Americans classify journalists together with the entertainment beat. When they think of journalists they think of tabloid journalism, TMZ, or the paparazzi, not those like James Foley.
Unfortunately their is too much tabloid- journalism stories going around. The other day, on CNN, I saw Blitzer say, “Stay tuned, we have some video you will want to see. A Los Angeles car chase ends in a horrific crash.” How is that good journalism! That’s just baiting the worst in our cravings for the unsubstantial!
The problem with the American perception of journalists is these types of stories. They grab our attention and leave the work of Woodward and Bernstein (who took down a U.S. President) or Glenn Greenwald (who reported Edward Snowden’s revelations ab0ut NSA spying-tactics) at the wayside
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 834 known journalists have been killed since 1992 in the line of their work. Below is a table by CPJ that breaks down the numbers of journalist deaths by individual countries. I will leave you with these sobering statistics.
20 Deadliest Countries