October 8, 2009

Newseum Honors Slain Journalists

WASHINGTON — Journalists who were killed in the line of duty since 1837 were honored in two-day ceremonies at the Newseum on April 3 and April 4, 2008. The new 36-foot tall Journalists Memorial, site of both ceremonies, bears the names of 1,843 worldwide journalists who died between 1837 and 2007.

Since its inception in 1996, the Newseum has rededicated the memorial each year, adding names of reporters who died the previous year. To commemorate the new memorial, which Newseum chief executive officer Charles L. Overby called "a place of reverence" inside the Newseum, this year's dedication paid tribute to the 66 journalists who died in 2006 and the 92 journalists who died in 2007.

Helen Thomas, veteran White House correspondent for UPI, began the April 4 ceremony as she has for nine years by reading the names of journalists who died between 1837 and 1943. Throughout the morning, eight other journalists from the United States and abroad read names through 2005. A chime sounded after each name was voiced.

During a separate ceremony in the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater later that morning, Chris Wells, senior vice president at the Freedom Forum, honored the journalists who died in 2006 and 2007.

Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel recognized the "courage, dedication and sacrifice" of the lost journalists.

"They live on as an inspiration to the highest ideals of journalism," Urschel said.

ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2006 from a roadside bomb in Iraq, was the keynote speaker of the dedication ceremony.

"We need, without question, to support those journalists," Woodruff said. "Someone needs to go and cover the soldiers, the journalists, and especially the people of Iraq and what's happening there," he said.

In a somber ceremony held on April 3, a small group of family, friends and former colleagues gathered to inter the remains of four news photographers — Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, Kent Potter and Keisaburo Shimamoto — who were killed in a helicopter crash over Laos in 1971.

Richard Pyle, former Saigon bureau chief for The Associated Press, was instrumental in recovering the remains from the crash site and giving them a final resting place at the Journalists Memorial.

Horst Faas, co-author with Pyle of the book, "Lost Over Laos," and a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, paid tribute to each of the four photographers.

"The young photographers [covering the war] in Vietnam laid a cornerstone of new photojournalism," he said.

AP chief executive officer Tom Curley, who spoke at the April 3 interment, characterized the significance of both ceremonies.

"We honor [the slain journalists] by attempting as forcefully as we can to preserve their values and champion both the history they recorded and the history they made," he said.

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