PERSPECTIVE: Please stop killing journalists


Nicholas Hunter headshot

Nicholas Hunter

The profession I’ve chosen to work toward isn’t an easy one.

It sits on the fine line between blue-collar and white-collar work. It requires loads of physical work — I’ve literally ran to track down sources, been soaked in sweat and jostled around among crowds of protestors. But I also sit at a desk, tapping away at a computer in an air-conditioned newsroom.

I can understand why so many people hear that description and struggle to pin down journalism. In this country, we like to create a social code for the “haves” and “have-nots,” and blue-collar and white-collor work, respectively, is code for that.

In the end, everyone is seemingly skeptical of the motivations and social standing of journalists.

I have this internal conversation frequently and struggle with whether I’m right. (The answer, of course, is likely that this is only a partial truth to begin with.)

But I repeatedly find myself having this conversation, both internally and with my peers, because there seems to be a growing consensus on whether it’s OK to be violent toward journalists.

One of the biggest pieces of international news has been the disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Writer, Washington Post columnist and longtime critic of the Saudi royal family, Khashoggi’s over two-week disappearance ended with the discovery of his death during an alleged fight between him and Saudi officials at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was reportedly not aware of the ordering of Khashoggi’s death.

In response, President Donald Trump was somewhat critical, saying the Saudi response to his death was “all over the place,” but also called Salman a “strong man” who has “very good control” of the situation.

Politics aside, it is troubling to see any president, even one who has been open about his distrust of the news media and vocal in supporting the dismantling of its basic principles in favor of better coverage of himself, is willing to sit by so idly after finding out about this crime.

Speaking of which — last week, Trump made a comment about Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, who allegedly body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs days before he was elected to his seat last year, during a rally Thursday said, “Any guy who can do a body slam … is my type!”

It’s troubling to see this so constantly, not just because I’m in the same profession, but because they’re just people doing their job. There’s this assumption, maybe because of the prominence of big news networks like CNN and Fox News being money-printing machines, that the journalism industry, at all levels, is about profit.

By and large, that simply isn’t the case. Just like any other profession, it’s people working to make a living. The malice should be toward the industry and the big-wig, rich folk at the top, not the reporters.

I don’t have a political rallying cry to oppose violence against journalists. I don’t have a silver lining about the ways the world supports journalists.

I don’t have a happy ending where the world comes to the understanding journalists have a tough, important job and people line up to shake our hands. I don’t have the patience for that crap anymore.

Hearing these stories won’t keep me from doing my job. They aren’t inspiring, nor do they light a fire in me to do my job harder or better. It just makes me mad and frustrated.

Nicholas Hunter is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected].