They gave their lives protecting our right to know | In Our Opinion

Since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 1,000 journalists worldwide have been killed while serving the public’s interests.

The CPJ database includes journalists who were murdered or killed while on dangerous assignment; the database does not include journalists killed in accidents while doing their jobs. But we know that number is significant. And sadly, that list now includes two KOMO News staffers: veteran photojournalist Bill Strothman, 62, of Bothell, and helicopter pilot Gary Pfitzner, 59, of Issaquah.

Strothman and Pfitzner died March 18 when their news helicopter crashed near the Space Needle, apparently after takeoff.

Their deaths remind us of the risks involved in daily news gathering.

Since Jan. 1, according to the CPJ, 18 journalists and media workers have died on a battlefield or during other military action; while covering a demonstration riot, clash between rival groups, or mob situation; or by targeted killing in direct relation to their work.

Journalists who have died in crashes within the last year include:

Michael Hastings, contributing editor to Rolling Stone and reporter for BuzzFeed, June 18 in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles.

Adolphous Okonkwo of the Voice of Nigeria, Olatunde Ojenike of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, and Afayat Odunsi of the Nigerian Television Authority, Aug. 2 in a vehicle collision after a meeting of the National Union of Journalists.

Alex Akinwale, a journalist with the Nigerian Television Authority, Feb. 1 in a vehicle collision involving the convoy of the deputy governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.

And now, Bill Strothman and Gary Pfitzner of KOMO News, March 18, while taking off in a news helicopter in Seattle.

The rosters of those killed include staff journalists, freelancers, stringers, bloggers. They covered the news in print, in photographs, on radio, on television, and online. And they were committed to their jobs, no matter the personal risk, because they knew it was important. They knew, as the Committee to Protect Journalists states, “Journalism plays a vital role in the balance of power between a government and its people. When a country’s journalists are silenced, its people are silenced.”

We extend our condolences to the Strothman and Pfitzner families, and to their colleagues at KOMO News.


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