By Kelsey Reichmann
Marie Colvin. Jamal Khashoggi. Daphne Caruana Galizia.
These are just three of the 1,340 journalists who have been killed worldwide since 1992 for simply doing their jobs. Five journalists have died just this year and 250 journalists are currently imprisoned for their work.
Reporters Without Borders published its 2019 press freedom index listing the most dangerous countries for journalists, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea; and the safest, Norway, Finland, and Sweden.
The index classifies colors to countries. The five categories are white (good), yellow (fairly good), orange (problematic), red (bad), and black (very bad).
The United States is categorized as orange, or problematic, ranking 48 out of 180 countries, mainly due to increased attacks on reporters, including a June shooting at a Baltimore, Maryland newspaper that killed five.
To bring awareness to the increased danger and difficulty of journalists’ jobs across the world, the United Nations proclaimed May 3 to be World Freedom Day
The CSUDH Society for Independent Journalists (SISJ) celebrated the 26th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day by inviting four local journalists to campus to have an open conversation about media in politics and democracy.
The journalists were: Ruben Vives, a Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter; Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, another Times reporter; Kevin Modesti, a Los Angeles Daily News reporter; and Brooke Staggs, a reporter for the Orange County Register.
Vives gave the keynote address, highlighting his life experience as an immigrant as the backbone of his drive as a journalist.
“I got here because of my background,” Vives said. “Throughout your career, you will lean on these experiences. They will shape you into the reporter you will become.”
Brant Burkey, an assistant professor in the communications department, moderated the panel, which took place after the keynote address.
Modesti said that journalists are especially important in today’s world where we can’t agree on basic facts.
“That’s where we come in to guide them,” Modesti said.
Reyes-Valarde encouraged journalists in the room to step out of their own echo chambers. She also described how highlighting communities that are under-reported could help with this.
“If you read about yourself, you are going to be more interested,” Reyes-Valarde said. She said that writing about people gives them a “sense of power” and validates their feelings and experiences.
Staggs advised journalists that they have to build a tough skin to survive criticism, but they should also help create credibility with their work by explaining to their readers how they got their information.