I had this idea back in the spring to collect the names of the few journalists who died from the coronavirus and have them inscribed on a brick in Poynter’s courtyard.
It’s a quiet spot, with the statue of a man reading a newspaper that visitors often pose with. There are tall palm trees, scurrying lizards and strings of lights. The ground is covered with memorial bricks in honor of journalists and their work.
After 10 months collecting the obits of journalists who’ve died because of the coronavirus, I’m certain that the courtyard couldn’t begin to hold all their names.
Press Emblem Campaign, a press freedom nonprofit, has gathered news of their deaths and been a key source in Poynter’s collection of coronavirus obituaries. It reports more than 500 journalists have died of the coronavirus in more than 57 countries.
That number might seem small compared to the death total in the U.S. alone, which is now more than 300,000. But compare it to the number of journalists killed worldwide while doing their work or in retribution for that work. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 30 journalists were killed in 2020.
These year-end pieces are meant to offer lessons, reflections and predictions. But what can I say about this work?
It’s more than 500 names too long.
Like our list of layoffs and closures, it shows how devastating the coronavirus has been everywhere: newspaper owners, cameramen, broadcast pioneers, writers, retirees, young parents.
Many of them — I don’t have a number — got sick while informing their communities about the pandemic.
As an obituary reporter, I know every death is a story. What you’ll find in these obits are the stories of the storytellers.
When I can go back into work again, I plan to purchase a brick in their honor. It can’t fit all their names. But they deserve to be remembered.