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My take: Journalists who paid the ultimate price get their due

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Steven Feldman

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Time magazine’s choice for 2018 Person of the Year. Titled “The Guardians and the War on Truth,” the magazine feted multiple members of the press—all of whom have either been killed or imprisoned in service of telling hard truths. As journalists ourselves here at FCNews, the announcement led me to reflect on what we aim to do every single day and the challenges we face and repercussions with which we are forced to deal. Of course, what we do here pales in comparison to the sacrifices others have made and will make, but in some small way you feel a kinship. They are our brothers and sisters in our chosen career paths.

For those who may have been orbiting the planet for the past week or so, “The Guardians” includes a Washington Post columnist who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of Maryland’s Capital Gazette, which lost five of its small staff after someone shot up the newsroom in July, but it kept publishing through their grief; a legal target in the Philippines for championing democracy under the rule of an increasingly authoritarian regime; and a pair of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for almost a year now for exposing the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims.

Journalists are not perfect. We all don’t look to save the world, but we do endeavor to make a difference in our own ways. We type up stories and columns every day, and we do important work, whether it’s reporting on a new product, covering a trade show or revealing the latest trends. The work we do is important for our little corner of the world, which just happens to be the flooring world. Others may pen an expose´ of shady spending at charter schools or review the new local restaurant. These stories have real value in our communities.

But the people Time honored, well, that’s the heavy lifting. What they do allows us to do what we do. They clear the way for us. They dare to describe what’s going on in front of them, often risking their lives in the process.

Here at FCNews we never have to worry about risking our lives when we report a news story. We never burn a bridge or anger someone to the point where they take matters to the extreme. Controversial stories are few and far between. But when those do occur, we seek fairness and balance on both sides equitably.

Unfortunately, that may result in us paying the price. Literally. Take the tariff situation. While the industry at large applauded us for balanced coverage, one company that will remain nameless took offense and chose to disengage with the magazine. The price we paid? Nothing close to our lives but rather significant advertising revenue. Years ago another company expressed its displeasure with our choice for a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and has boycotted the magazine ever since. I could go on.

As well, what happened at the Capital Gazette could unfortunately happen to any journalist sitting at his desk at any magazine at any time where someone becomes consumed by anger and enacts revenge by taking lives. That’s the world we live in.

These people, these journalists, have made sacrifices. All of us—not just journalists, but everyone who values a free society—would be poorer without them. Were these “Guardians” the right choice for Person of the Year? Trump? Putin? Mueller? Markle? Coogler? Moon Jae-in? Separated families? March for Our Lives activists? I guess you could make a case for all of them. But I’m glad a few of our own—those who have paid the ultimate price—received their well-deserved recognition.