In an emotional rededication ceremony held in the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial Gallery June 8, the names of 14 journalists — including photojournalist James Foley and freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded by ISIS militants in Syria — were added to the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial.
The journalists, 11 men and three women, represent the more than 80 journalists who died while covering the news in 2014.
“It is right, and just, that we pause today in our busy lives to remember what these journalists did, and why they did it,” Peter Prichard, chief executive officer of the Newseum, said in his opening remarks.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the Newseum’s First Amendment Center, acknowledged the journalists’ sacrifices and their lasting place on the Memorial.
“We are but the caretakers and guardians of this Memorial on behalf of those who ultimately require no such construct to confirm their courage and self-sacrifice,” he said.
Some of the friends and family members of the fallen journalists gave poignant tributes in their loved ones’ memories.
Sotloff’s parents, Art and Shirley Sotloff, remembered their son as “big-hearted and open-handed,” whose curiosity had no bounds. While in captivity, Sotloff smuggled two letters to his family through a former cellmate. His parents said Sotloff knew he probably wouldn’t return home and urged his family not to grieve for him but to cherish their freedoms.
“Everyone has two lives,” Sotloff said in one of the letters. “The second one begins when you realize that you only have one.”
Art and Shirley directed guests to the 2Lives foundation website, an organization established in Steven’s memory to provide assistance to journalists and their families who report from danger zones around the world.
In brief remarks, John Foley, father of James Foley, said Foley and Sotloff suffered “horrific deaths.” He explained that John “left his mark as a wonderful human being attempting to defend our right to know, one person at a time.”
Carol Guzy, a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who shared the 1986 Pulitzer with Michel Du Cille, gave a tearful tribute on behalf of Du Cille’s wife, Nikki Khan, who was also in attendance. Du Cille died of an apparent heart attack while covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia last year.
“We honor him now not only by our words but our deeds,” Guzy said. “By never wavering from telling stories that must be told and rising up just a little higher in ethics and moral fiber.”
Guzy, who added that Du Cille “was not defined by awards but by his work,” said he “would be humbled to have his name etched on the Memorial.”
Kathy Gannon, a correspondent for The Associated Press, was the keynote speaker. In 2014, she was seriously wounded in an attack in Afghanistan that killed her AP colleague, Anja Niedringhaus. Niedringhaus was also added to the Memorial. Gannon, who is still recovering from her injuries, said that curiosity was one of the many reasons journalists put themselves in harm’s way.
“As journalists, we join this profession because we are curious. We who go off to conflict areas are satisfying that curiosity to understand the why and how of war, and most especially, the who of those caught in the middle — the people,” she said.
Gannon described the day she was injured and Niedringhaus was killed. They had traveled to eastern Afghanistan to cover the presidential elections.
“We wanted to know what it really meant to the people and what they had to endure, the terrain they had to cross to mark that ballot,” she said. “The last thing I remember before the burst of gunfire and the overwhelming smell of gunpowder was [Niedringhaus’s] laugh. She loved what she was doing. She was happy.”
For the first time in the Newseum’s seven-year history in Washington, D.C., the popular “Today’s Front Pages” exhibit on display at the museum and online was blacked out to raise awareness of the threats journalists face every day around the world. The #WithoutNews campaign highlights a world without news. The front pages will return June 9.
With this year’s addition of 14 names, the memorial will recognize a total of 2,271 reporters, photographers, broadcasters and news executives from around the world, dating back to 1837.