National Press Club

Lawmakers, journalists join forces for Fallen Journalists Memorial

July 2, 2019 | By Jim Kuhnhenn | jkuhnhenn@press.org

National Press Club Journalism Institute President Barbara Cochran and former U.S. Rep. David Dreier announce formation of a foundation to create a memorial to fallen journalists on June 26.

National Press Club Journalism Institute President Barbara Cochran and former U.S. Rep. David Dreier announce formation of a foundation to create a memorial to fallen journalists on June 26.

Members of Congress from both parties and leaders in journalism found common cause on Wednesday, June 26, taking the first steps toward erecting a permanent public memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor journalists who have died in the course of doing their jobs.

Lawmakers and representatives of the journalism community gathered at the National Press Club to announce the creation of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation and the introduction of bipartisan legislation to authorize the memorial. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s non-profit affiliate, will be home to the foundation.

“The National Press Club Journalism Institute is so proud to be hosting this effort,” said Institute President Barbara Cochran, who will also serve as president of the memorial foundation. “The memorial fits perfectly with the mission of both the Club and the Institute to uphold press freedom here at home and internationally.”

The launch of the memorial effort came two days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the June 28, 2018, shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., where five people were killed. And it came as journalists continue to be targeted both in the U.S. and abroad. The international death toll for journalists since 1992 now stands at a sobering 1,344, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Journalists are both an expression of as well as a guardian of liberty,” said former U.S. Rep. David Dreier, who will chair the memorial foundation and who is chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company. “We know that journalists are under attack all across the globe. And the fact that over the last several years we have seen attacks take place here at home is something that has led to this moment.”

The creation of a memorial foundation and new House and Senate legislation are the first steps in what Dreier predicted would be a seven-year mission to raise money, secure land and design and build the memorial. The project will be financed with private donations and will be built on federal land, but will not require government money.

Joining Dreier at the announcement were Sens. Ben Cardin, D-MD., and Rob Portman, R-OH, as well as U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK, and former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham; Rick Hutzell, Editor, Capital Gazette Communications; Tim Knight, president of the Tribune Publishing Company; and Trif Alatzas, publisher and editor-in-chief of Baltimore Sun Media.

Cardin and Portman are the sponsors of Senate legislation authorizing the memorial. Cole and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-CA, introduced the House version of the bill.

Cardin recalled contemplative days walking on Washington’s National Mall, home to some of the nation’s most recognizable monuments.

“But there is clearly missing a memorial to fallen journalists. Freedom of the press is the bedrock of our country,” he said. “We don’t have a focal point where we can pay our respects for those who have literally given their lives in the line of duty to protect the democracy of this nation.”

Graham invoked the memory of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who was killed last year in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate by agents of the Saudi government.

“As someone who used to work for The Washington Post, I point out that we meet in the shadow of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, murdered brutally, intentionally as an act of state because he wrote what he believed,” Graham said. “Those are the risks that reporters and writers run at their worst.”

Hutzell, the Capital Gazette editor, reflected on the determination of his newspaper’s staff to publish a paper the day after the tragedy and to continue to do their work a year after.

“Journalists finish their assignments,” he said. "Journalism is vital to the success of our democracy. I know it at the local level. Some of you know it at the national level. A memorial like this is a just and fitting way to recognize that importance to our nation.”