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Role of journalists heralded

Each year newspapers across the country and Canada pause for a moment to mark National Newspaper Week.

It’s a short celebration, because, as journalists, we are busy gathering news and facts to do exactly what the observance is all about — sharing information about what’s happening in our communities.

One of the primary goals of the observance, the 82nd annual, is to promote the relevance of newspapers and why they matter. Sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers, this year’s observance is being marked Oct. 2-8.

Coming on the heels of the Nevada Press Foundation’s annual banquet and Awards of Excellence, it serves as a reminder that what we do makes a difference in people’s lives, regardless of how big its staff is, how many pages are in the newspaper or if readers are viewing the actual printed pages or the electronic version of the paper. Each one of us plays an important role in getting much-needed information out to our readers.

For me, and many of my colleagues at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Boulder City Review’s parent company, this year’s observance is even more poignant. It comes just a month after our co-worker Jeff German was murdered, for what it seems to be just doing his job.

The impact of the attack on Mr. German has rippled far beyond the walls of our newsroom. It is being felt across the nation. It motivates those of us in the business to continue pursuing those tough stories, while at the same time makes us pause and question our own safety. Even the staff of the Boulder City Review, a small weekly newspaper, has received threats for doing our jobs and printing news that someone didn’t like.

In honor of Mr. German and in the spirit of National Newspaper Week, I am sharing an op-ed piece I recently received from faculty members at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“The stabbing death of reporter Jeff German outside his home in Las Vegas Sept. 3 stunned many of us who take pride in journalism that holds authorities accountable. The investigative news coverage Mr. German was known for is the kind all communities need if they stand a chance of learning about corruption, abuse, scams, lies and other threats to public well-being. One such story published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in May appears to be the reason the 69-year-old reporter was killed.

Five days after the stabbing, police announced another stunner. The arrested suspect is elected Clark County government official Robert Telles. The office that he led had been the subject of Mr. German’s report, which detailed allegations of mismanagement.

We mourn the outrageous loss of Mr. German, who was described by his editor as the ‘gold standard’ for his many years reporting some of the most difficult stories in Nevada.

This isolated attack occurs at an unsettling time in media for many reasons. These concerns are not always connected, not all equal in impact. But when a journalist loses his life for simply doing his job well, there is cause to reflect.

Murderous attacks on journalists are rare in the United States. However, episodes of harassment, threats and hostile environments for journalists simply seeking to report the truth have been startlingly common in recent years. For example, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which has cataloged such incidents for the past six years, no fewer than 40 journalists were assaulted every year between 2017 and 2021, with 629 assaults in 2020 alone, a year of particular social and political unrest.

The spread of disinformation is another concerning challenge, and not just for committed newsrooms. The health of community discourse is at stake. More credible information flows more freely than ever before, but so does more garbage. A shameless faction of politicians and trolls unleash known lies with reckless repetition. The wily ones even seek to demean and demonize reporters who dare to publish verified facts.

As faculty members who prepare future generations of professionals, we help students value the promise of credible information as the lifeblood of democracy.

There is much to debate about the evolving role of media who serve an evolving audience in times of pervasive disinformation, but the essence of reporting is no mystery. It requires journalists who are motivated to find facts and present truth — the way colleagues of Jeff German describe his life’s work. It requires an informed public that demands as much. It requires understanding that we are all responsible for holding authorities accountable. And it demands that none of us tolerate those who would vilify, threaten or harm people who are committed to ensuring that accountability.”

Signed by: Caesar Andrews, Kari Barber, Richard Bednarski, David Calvert, Claudia Cruz, Nico Colombant, Todd Felts, Patrick File, Kelsey Fitzgerald, Alison Gaulden, Kyung Hwan Kim, Dave Maass, Donica Mensing, Paro Pain, Myrton Running Wolf, Jim Scripps, Alan G. Stavitsky and Gi Woong Yun.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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