A New York Times Photo-Essay on the COVID-19 Pandemic in Bergamo, Italy Helps Explain Why Freedom of the Press is So Vital

A photo-essay in the New York Times about the COVID-19 pandemic in Bergamo, Italy is the source of this brief post. Its a must read and helps make the coronavirus deeply personal and explain what is happening in Italy. The press has often been attacked these days, but remember the press has often throughout history been in the epicenter of the challenging times. What the Times conveyed form Northern Italy is as valuable as Andy Rooney reporting on D-Day from Normandy or of the journalists that risked their lives to cover September 11, 2001. The free press is a pillar of  healthy and stable government. 


“Accept loss forever.”

Jack Kerouac 

From a Catholic hospital in California.

This blog is a strong believer of journalism and the freedom of the press. Journalists play a crucial role in a free and fully functional democracy. Not only that but there are many journalists who have risked their lives and more due to their commitment to the truth to get a story told. Journalists work in some of the most dangerous locations in the world and have witnessed history unfold. During the American landings at Normandy on D-Day in June of 1944 members of the press covered the historic assault. Some like Andy Rooney did so from a ship bound for Utah beach or on the beech. Others like Walter Cronkite wrote about D-Day after riding in a B-17 Flying Fortress nervously looking for German Luftwaffe fighters. If you want to read more about how journalists covered the opening of the western front in Europe you can do so here

Meanwhile lower Manhattan was turned into a war zone on September 11, 2001. On that dark day in history seven journalists were killed working for the press. Some were engineers keeping the covering going from the top of One World Trade. Bill Biggert who was a free lance photographer covered the burning Trade Center until the south tower collapsed killing him. If you want to read more about the journalists killed on September 11, 2001 you can do so here.  In the Iraq War which kicked off in March of 2003 at least 28 journalists died covering the war, insurgency and more. One of the more stunning situations was the story of Bob Woodruff of ABC News. Woodruff was almost killed by a roadside bomb. He went through intense therapy and learned how to walk again. 

Journalists and those who cover the news take incredible risks. And some have given their lives to a noble profession that works to bring information to people like me and you. The other day in the New York Times I read something that gave me pause. It was hard to read but I deeply am grateful that it was covered. As you know the COVOD-19 pandemic is hitting Italy exceptionally hard. As of March 28, 2020 10, 023 have died in Italy of COVID-19.  On March 27, 2020 in the Times a deeply troubling photo-essay was done by Jason Horowitz who wrote the story and Fabio Bucciarelli who took the pictures. The story is called, ‘We Take the Dead From Morning Till Night’ In that photo essay the Times goes into one of the hardest hit hospitals and covers the pandemic from the inside. They also visit the homes and you see what the COVID-19 has done to individual families. You also learn about how the funeral industry can’t keep up with the pace of death and is overwhelmed. This reporting reminded me of some of the brave reporting up above that took place during World War II, September 11, 2001 or Iraq. Going to the epicenter of a pandemic and placing your life at risk so that you can report the story and get the information out to the world reminds me of what Walter Cronkite or Andy Rooney did in World War II. That Times story gives the COVID-19 pandemic a face and names that bring this tragedy into your home and tell you how bad the situation is. This blog has deep respect for both Jason Horowitz and Fabio Bucciarelli. 

In a democracy the free press is a cornerstone to a healthy government. It reports on the problems, exposes issues and covers the government. Sometimes it can be stinging and difficult but there are times when all sides take a well needed scrutiny. This blog has deep respect for the press and when I write stories I often and frequently use those stories to make my claim. Today you will hear the claim that the media is the “enemy of the people.” That claim is originally from Stalin who governed the Soviet Union. Stalin used the press to cause hysteria and go after his enemies in purges. In a democracy the press is never the enemy of the people. Instead the press is the friend of the people. The press writes about issues that benefit the people and society. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” May we in America remember and take Thomas Jefferson’s words to heart. That New York Times article explains why the free press is so crucial. To relay that difficult information to people like me in D.C. others in Los Angeles, Toronto, Milwaukee or elsewhere is necessary.