Monday, November 23, 2009

We salute those who go out to get the stories

This morning, while I was puttering around and being productive after a week of illness, I saw a story that made me stop in my tracks:

At least 12 journalists were killed today in Maguindanao province (on the southern island of Mindanao) by armed men, including two policemen, linked to the province’s governor, a supporter of President Gloria Arroyo. More than 30 other people were murdered. Some of the victims were beheaded.

“Never in the history of journalism have the news media suffered such a heavy loss of life in one day,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We convey our condolences and sympathy to all journalists in the Philippines, who are in state of shock after this appalling massacre.”

Reading that story made me incredibly sad for the people who were killed and their families. But to hear that at least a dozen reporters were killed made me shed a little tear. It's cliche, but I have to salute those reporters for being brave (and perhaps crazy) enough to go out into a dangerous area and hunt down the truth and bring it back for everyone else.

In my old life, my job never got that hazardous -- apart from a moment when I thought two politicians were going to come to blows after a meeting. But I remember hearing stories about violence -- one receptionist at another paper was physically attacked years before I started working.

But sometimes, when you'd get an angry phone call or someone would try and intimidate you, the hairs on the back of your neck would stand on edge and you'd wonder if something would happen (especially after hearing stories from other grizzled colleagues). Because we never truly know if we're safe -- there's always the risk of violence occurring somewhere.

This is where I have to salute those reporters. They were familiar with the risks for reporting in the Philippines during the election, yet they still braved going out there to get the story and bring it back for those of us who couldn't be there. That takes guts and a certain amount of insanity to go out and get the job done.

When people talk about citizen journalism and how blogging is the new wave of journalism, I agree, up to a point. How many of us would be willing to risk our lives to cover and election for crap pay? How many of us would blog about it as opposed to Lindsay Lohan? I think we know the answers to those questions.

I hope the killers are brought to justice. And I hope people never forget when things like that occur. Sacrifices are often made to get to the truth, and it's a risk that a good reporter is willing to do.

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