Over a year ago, I blogged about my fear of the unknown future coupled with the sometimes overwhelming, scary nature of journalism. Tonight’s event at the Newseum, (which also happened to be my first “official journalism event in D.C.”) brought that concept of the “scary side of journalism” to a whole other level.
At the beginning of the event, they played videos documenting the stories of journalists James Foley and Austin Tice. Both were correspondents in Syria who were kidnapped months apart from each other in 2012. Their families worked persistently to discover the whereabouts of these men. The search for Foley ended tragically when footage of his beheading was released on YouTube. Tice, on the other hand, is still missing.
His mom, Debra Tice, along with Foley’s mom, Diane Foley, shared what they learned about the press and government through their experience. Hearing from these two women was eye-opening and it definitely made me wonder what the government could do to improve the way they handle this issue, which is becoming increasingly common as more and more journalists are being threatened in various parts of the world.
Of all the issues and questions raised tonight, what really stuck with me was the passion that drove Foley and Tice to willingly put their lives on the line to capture the conflict in Syria. Both of them did not have to go. In fact, both their families, and even some of their colleagues, urged them not to go, but they wanted to communicate the harsh realities of what is going on in the other side of the world. To me, that is the heart of journalism. Journalists exist to provide a window into lives, places and events that most others wouldn’t normally have access to.
But then, how far is too far? This is essentially what Kathleen Carroll of the Associated Press brought up in a discussion after Diane Foley and Debra Tice shared their experiences. She asked if the story was worth the risk. While this is a question that I don’t think I could ever fully answer, from an aspiring journalist’s point of view, if the story increases awareness amongst the public and equips them with the information they need to take action, I think that yes, it is worth it. I would not advise irresponsibly putting oneself in dangerous situations in order to get a story, but if there is a passion and clear purpose, the kind that I saw in Foley and Tice, then it is definitely worth it. I mean look at the impact it is having today. We are still talking about their work and almost three years after they went missing, they inspired me in my endeavors to report “nothing but the truth.”
In her closing remarks on the panel, Carroll said that in light of this issue, the news audience (a.k.a. everyone) has a responsibility to care about and appreciate the work that these journalists are doing. I can definitely say that this event gave me a deeper appreciation for the news. The price of that article you read or the video footage you watched goes beyond just a few dollars at the convenience store or having to endure a 30 second ad. There are journalists out there like Foley and Tice who are risking their lives, and that’s the real cost of news.