‘Stewards of a tradition’LA Times Editor Carroll reminds journalists of heroes and values

New York, November 24, 2004
—The gap widens each year between contemporary journalists who work in multi-faceted news corporations and the journalistic “heroes” of the past, Los Angeles Times Editor John Carroll told a crowd of 850 who gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria Tuesday to honor reporters and editors who risked everything to report the news.

Carroll, winner of the 2004 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, given by Committee to Protect Journalists for lifetime achievement, called on news people to re-examine the sometimes–corrosive corporate influence on journalism. Recalling the proud course set by John Peter Zenger and Ida B.Wells, he urged news leaders to uphold longstanding core values of public service, reverence for the facts, and independence.

“We—the people in this room—are stewards of a tradition,” Carroll said at CPJ’s 14th annual International Press Freedom Awards Dinner. “It is a good tradition, a hard-won tradition. Times may change, but the best of our values must be carried on. The first step in doing so is to see clearly, without self-delusion, who we are today— and to remember, with equal clarity, who we ought to be.”

CPJ presented 2004 International Press Freedom Awards to Svetlana Kalinkina, a Belarusian editor who endured years of harassment, and to Alexis Sinduhije, a Burundian who withstood government intimidation to launch a radio station. Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun of Burma, documentary filmmakers who have been imprisoned since 1999, were honored as well.

Paul Klebnikov, the Forbes Russia editor gunned down in a contract-style killing in Moscow in July, was recognized with a posthumous award. His wife, Musa, accepted the honor and reminded the crowd, “An attack on one journalist is an attack on all journalists—and in Paul’s case, an attack on hope itself.”

Since 1991, the CPJ awards have recognized journalists who risked their lives, safety, and security to report the news. “At this event we celebrate the courage of individual journalists,” Executive Director Ann Cooper said, “and we demonstrate our collective determination to thwart forces that would silence the press.”

Tony Ridder, chairman and CEO of Knight Ridder, was chairman of the black-tie dinner that thus far raised a record $1,347,000. PBS News anchor and CPJ board member Gwen Ifill served as host.