Michele W. Berger at Penn Today:

For weeks leading up to a planned trip to Washington, D.C., on March 25—prime cherry blossom time there—a cohort of Penn graduate students had been watching weather reports with trepidation. Even the morning of, the forecast still called for rain.


But the trip was on, so 11 first-year Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) doctoral students, along with Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson and ASC IT specialist and ethnographer Kyle Cassidy, set off by train from Philadelphia to spend a largely overcast day visiting the Voice of America building and memorials around the city.


This included time at the site of what will become the Fallen Journalists Memorial (FJM), which eventually aims to both honor journalists who have lost their lives and celebrate the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom. Guided by Barbara Cochran, former journalist and current president of the FJM Foundation, they discussed the importance of the memorial, of situating it in a triangle of land that anchors the National Mall, with the Capitol dome as its backdrop.

The trip, part of the Qualitative Ways of Knowing course taught this semester by Jamieson, augments the classroom-based work she and the Annenberg students have done to help document and archive the creation process for the Fallen Journalists Memorial. Beyond seeing the memorials in D.C., they’ve also interviewed many key players—former U.S. Representative David Dreier, journalists like Rick Hutzell, Clarence Page, and Bob Schieffer, architect Paul Goldberger—to better understand the threats journalism faces today, the process of getting the Congressional nod for such a memorial, and the challenges of creating a commemorative work that conveys all it is intended to represent.

On June 28, 2018, Jarrod Ramos walked into the newsroom of The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, and killed five people. At the time, Dreier was chairman of the Tribune Publishing Co., The Capital’s parent organization. “They had died in a newsroom that was part of Tribune Publishing,” Jamieson says. “Honoring their lives and work and the kind of journalism they exemplified has become a mission for him.”

So, on the first anniversary, Dreier launched the nonprofit Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, which he runs today with Cochran and Vincent Randazzo. In December 2020, then-President Trump greenlighted the idea, and in December 2022, President Biden approved the preferred site, signing it into law as part of the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

Dreier and Jamieson have a long history, dating back to Dreier’s time as chairman of the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives, when, in the ’90s, he and colleagues commissioned Jamieson to write a report for a bipartisan Congressional retreat on comity in the House. Dreier was also a family friend of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, founder and namesake of the Annenberg School for Communication and the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). The Annenberg Foundation, together with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, provided $6 million to get the FJM Foundation off the ground. Jamieson and Annenberg dean John L. Jackson, Jr. (who becomes University provost on June 1) are part of the foundation’s advisory board.

Early on, after the first authorization had gone through but no site had yet been selected, Dreier and others approached Jamieson about documenting the process of establishing the memorial. “They asked me to organize an archive chronicling the origins and development of the Fallen Journalists Memorial for the historical record,” Jamieson says. “Such a record would make it possible for future generations to understand not only the context for its creation but also the deliberations that resulted in its ultimate form.”