TED STREULI, The Journal Record
Print journalists have a longstanding axiom: A newsman isn't news unless he shoots somebody.
This week there is good reason to put forth a sad corollary: A newsman isn't news unless he gets shot.
Veteran American war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was working for The Sunday Times of London, and French photographer Remi Ochlik died Wednesday in Syria. They were among those killed in the Syrian government's bombardment of Horns, where they were covering those trying to topple the regime.
Last week, Oklahoma City native Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prizewinning war correspondent working for The New York Times, died while covering the conflict in Syria. He died from an asthma attack brought on by his allergy to horses, which were a necessary part of his surreptitious movement in the country.
There is a critical link among the three that should be noted ad rem: They worked for newspapers.
Wednesday's deaths brought to 901 the number of journalists killed on assignment since 1992, an average of more than 47 per year, nearly one per week. Ninety-eight percent were working for what is now called legacy media, that is, newspapers and broadcast networks. The other 2 percent worked for Internet-based organizations.
During those two decades, there has been a dramatic shift in news as a full generation of consumers draws information from reporterfree outfits such as Google News, Yahoo News and World News. Such businesses are happy to display the work of others and sell ads around it. Bloggers, who rarely venture into anything as dangerous as a thunderstorm, are content to comment on the stories drafted by the Colvins and Shadids and sell ads around that, too. Local sites copy stories verbatim from this and other news outlets, then post them. All will argue that disseminating information widely and rapidly is good public policy and that they are the stalwart guardians of free speech.
Contemplate, then, how free information really is. Consider how much it cost Shadid, Colvin and Ochlik. Think about what you wouldn't know if it weren't for people like them, and which pockets of corruption would go without accountability.
Then ask this: How many reporters does Yahoo have in Syria?
Posted on Wed, April 18, 2012