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This View by Nancy LeMay
Nancy LeMay is a five-time Emmy winning broadcast designer who has worked both in New York and LA, in network and local. She is a teacher and a painter as well. You can reach her through her website, and by email at

Life, Death, Stories

I count many journalists among my friends and acquaintances. They are, as a group, inquisitive, brave, open minded, and often quite funny. Many of them seem to be powered through their workdays by a special energy; journalism has been characterized as a calling, and it appears to me that it really is a calling. So the deaths of reporters and photojournalists in Iraq over these past few days, breathtaking and sad, should make us take stock of this profession- and what it means to everyone- once again.

A free press is part of our culture, an element of our freedom so deeply ingrained that we don't think about the alternative until we observe it in other cultures. We revel in our ability to criticize every element of our lives, to the point where other societies think there's something wrong with us. We can't really imagine what it would be like if one guy ran all of American opinion; it simply is beyond our ken. In Iraq this past week, people could actually express themselves honestly about the government for the first time in more than 30 years, and their sense of relief and joy was so palpable, it tumbled right through the glass and onto our coffee tables as we watched on TV. It was the joy in the realization of objective truth. Not self-serving opinion, not political manipulation of truth ("There are no Americans in Baghdad!"). Just the facts.

What we've been reminded of again is that people are willing to risk everything for truth. The people who do it as war correspondents clearly have chosen to be on the outer rim of the profession, and we scratch our heads and are awed by their courage. We can imagine the adrenaline rush, the opportunity to see and make history, and we can think about how great that must be. But I have friends in New York and Los Angeles who have worn flack jackets to work-in New York and Los Angeles. I know guys who have traveled back to the newsroom still smelling of smoke from the wildfire they've been covering during the day. I've worked in newsrooms that had to repair vans and choppers that had been fired upon or trashed in civil disturbances. This stuff doesn't happen every day, but it can happen on any given day.

When I worked for NBC News in New York, there was a memorial to the NBC crew killed at Jonestown in 1978. It was in the waiting area for the elevators on the Sixth Avenue side of 30 Rock. The elevator doors would open and there it was, a reminder, always a little startling and unexpected, of what is at stake when a heavy hand is laid upon the truth. For a moment, however brief, I'd find my self thinking about the sacrifices, and not just the adventures, that happen in the practice of journalism.

If it were up to me, there'd be a place in every newsroom in America where we could find the names of all these amazing people who have laid down their lives this way, and feel proud to be in the same line of work as they were.