Amid all the news of 2022, you may have missed this big story: Congress agreed to, and the president signed off on, the creation of a Fallen Journalists Memorial to be built in the nation’s capital. The memorial will honor the men and women, domestic and foreign, who have given their lives so you can know what is going on in the world. It comes amid massive media layoffs. Yes, the fifth estate is getting real estate not far from the National Mall, a place of monuments honoring presidents and defenders of American freedom. This will be the first tribute to civilian journalists who lost their lives practicing their craft. How did it happen?
The project was launched in the days following the first anniversary of the deadliest attack on journalists in U.S. history when a gunman stormed the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., in 2018, killing five staff members. Former Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the board of the Tribune Media Group, spearheaded an effort to get bills introduced in the House and Senate, which passed and were signed into law in December 2020.
What does it mean to have a memorial to fallen journalists? First, expect controversy. The press has had a bumpy ride for many years, most notably during the Trump administration. The media has suffered the same lack of confidence as many institutions of late, with the most recent data suggesting that just 7 percent of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the media, and that 27 percent have “a fair amount.” Deep partisanship is reflected in Americans’ opinions of news. The memorial could play a role in diminishing some of that division. For one, it focuses the mind on the many lives lost over decades by people simply trying to do their jobs to inform us. According to the project’s supporters, some 1,300 journalists have been killed around the world over the past 25 years. Last year alone, at least 67 journalists lost their lives covering the news, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.