At the Journalists Memorial, one of the Newseum’s most moving exhibits on the third floor, the names of 2,176 reporters can be read on panes of frosted glass that stretch from floor to ceiling. Each name represents a journalist who’s died or been killed in pursuit of the news since 1837. On Monday morning, in a solemn ceremony attended by family, friends, and fellow journalists, 70 more names were added to the memorial.
The keynote speaker for the occasion was Alejandro Junco, founder of Reforma, one of the most widely read newspapers in Mexico City, where journalists are frequent targets. “We are here today to honor those who have paid the highest price any person can ever pay for pursuing the truth,” said Junco, who noted that in 2012 so far, 18 journalists have been killed and nearly 200 have been imprisoned.
Perhaps the most affecting aspect of the hour-long service was the reading of the names of those lost in 2011 by Chris Wells, former senior vice president of the Freedom Foundation. As Wells spoke, a chime pealed through Knight Studio. Many of the journalists commemorated came not from the US but from Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American countries, where seeking and telling the truth can be dangerous endeavors.
The event also honored two well-known journalists in this country: Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, who were both killed while reporting in Libya last year. Hondros was a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for Getty Images; Hetherington was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a filmmaker who received an Academy Award nomination for his documentary shot in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, Restrepo. Some personal effects from both men--including letters, glasses, and a book by Jean-Paul Sartre--have been donated to the Newseum. Close friends spoke of the passion Hondros and Hetherington had for their work, and helped underscore the heroic aspect of journalism emphasized by Junco.
"The reporter, my friends, is actually a super man," Junco said. "Letting people see is letting people know. Letting people know is letting people do, and the power of doing means freedom."
For more information about the Journalists Memorial, visit the Newseum's website.