December 27, 2007

Remembering Journalists We Lost

Some are household names. Others are recognizable only through their works. All left a lasting impact on our world.

As 2007 comes to an end, the Newseum recognizes some of the men and women in the media who passed away this year and whose contributions to journalism will not be forgotten.

Art Buchwald, the syndicated humor columnist whose work has appeared in newspapers for more than half a century, defied doctors' prognoses and his failing kidneys to live nearly a year longer than expected. He turned his dance with death into a book, "Too Soon to Say Goodbye," published in November 2006. The probing humor that won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982 was with him at the end. "I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies," he reportedly joked with friends.

John L. Gaunt Jr. was a 29-year-old photographer for the Los Angeles Times in 1954 when he snapped the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a distraught young couple standing by the ocean moments after their 19-month-old son was swept away by the tide. The Pulitzer committee named the photograph "Tragedy by the Sea." The event left a lasting impression on Gaunt. "As I made the last exposure, they turned and walked away," he said.

David Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1964 for his gripping reports that questioned progress in the Vietnam War. An upset President John F. Kennedy wanted The New York Times to bring Halberstam home. "The more you saw, the more you realized it just didn't work," Halberstam said. His wide-ranging books — covering subjects from the media to professional sports — displayed his reportorial talents on topics unrelated to war. But his last book, "The Coldest Winter," was about war — the Korean War — and was released this fall.

Bill Hosokawa was a Seattle-born journalist who had been working in Asia for two years when hostilities there forced him to return to the United States. Five weeks later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Hosokawa spent 18 months with other Japanese Americans in a Wyoming internment camp. "It was a great shock to be a free American citizen one day and the next to find your government has abandoned you," he said in a 1999 interview. Hosokawa edited the camp paper, the Heart Mountain Sentinel, striving for press freedom. After the war, he worked for 38 years at The Denver Post, eventually as editorial page editor, and for seven years at the Rocky Mountain News as ombudsman.

Molly Ivins, the liberal political humorist for The Texas Observer and later, the Dallas Times Herald and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, mocked politicians and her beloved "great state" of Texas in her syndicated columns. Ivins, who spent four years at The New York Times, said the Lone Star State was made for her. "There's no place more sexist," she said. The secret to her biting humor? "God gave me Texas politics to write about. How can I not be funny?"

Norman Mailer, one of America's most prolific writers, championed the "new journalism" of the 1960s. He wove a novelist's fiction-writing techniques into nonfiction subjects. Mailer's "Armies of the Night" — an account of the 1967 anti-war protests at the Pentagon — won a National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award. What did the combative, hard-drinking Mailer think of his career and legacy? "One's eventual reputation has very little to do with one's talent. History determines it, not the order of your words."

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette thought cartoons were "windows into the human condition." His editorial cartoons and comic strip "Kudzu" were syndicated in newspapers around the world. "Kudzu" inspired a musical comedy that toured the country. Marlette was the editorial cartoonist at The Charlotte Observer and The Atlanta Constitution, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. He had worked at the Tulsa World since February 2006

Photographer Ernest C. Withers never knew he would be "recording the high multitude of imagery and history." Withers was responsible for some of the most memorable images of the civil rights era, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy riding on one of the first desegregated buses in Montgomery, Ala.; the trial of the men charged with killing black teenager Emmett Till (for which Withers was the only photographer to cover the entire proceedings); and a group of protesting men holding "I Am a Man" signs during a sanitation strike in Memphis. Withers's images have appeared in Time, Newsweek and The New York Times.

All of these journalists are featured in the Newseum's galleries and exhibits. They are honored separately from the journalists who were killed this year trying to report the news. For a preliminary list of those journalists, visit the Journalists Memorial gallery

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