Journalism is associated with a certain level of risk for those who practice the profession. Being in dangerous situations, investigating individuals that can become violent, and confronting powerful groups-- these are some of the challenges that journalists face.
Several days ago, an incident in North Carolina gave us a tragic reminder of these risks.
Charlotte television station WBTV suffered two irreparable losses on November 22 when its Sky3 helicopter crashed near I-77. Journalist and meteorologist Jason Myers and pilot Chip Tayag both died in the incident.
The station used the helicopter for news coverage, as well as weather and traffic reports. Nobody imagined that what seemed like a day of routine work would end in tragedy.
According to Johnny Jennings, Chief of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), when the helicopter malfunctioned, Chip made a maneuver to ensure that the aircraft landed on the side of the road instead of on the interstate. This prevented what surely would have been an even greater disaster.
Jason’s wife and four children, Chip’s wife, and Jason and Chip’s peers at WBTV now face a painful new reality.
A risky profession
Worldwide, journalism is considered a dangerous profession. Some associate this risk with covering wars or zones of armed conflict, but that is not necessarily the case.
According to data from the organization Committee to Protect Journalists, during 2022, the death of 37 of these professionals did not occur in places like Afghanistan or Iraq, but in countries like Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and even the United States. And sadly, the outlook for next year does not seem to be promising.
Threats and risks in the United States
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects freedom of the press as an essential element of a functioning democracy. But the rise to power of populist leaders (such as Donald Trump and some of his supporters) unleashed a series of indiscriminate attacks against the press, making our profession even more risky.
These days, it is common to look at the comments section of local media and social networks and read comments from people, full of prejudice and lacking evidence, who violently rant against the work of journalists.
In the La Noticia office, I keep a box full of hate mail that has been compiled over the last 15 years, which has come from people who support the ideas of white supremacy. We have also received threats from gangs, along with insults from people who believe (without proof) that we support a particular political party.
It's not a complaint, it's reality
All of the aforementioned should not be interpreted as a complaint, but as a window into the reality of being a journalist, a point that is often ignored by the public.
Those of us who have the vocation of serving the community through communication understand the risks of this profession and of being exposed to dangerous situations. Nevertheless, we feel it is our duty to do everything in our power to keep you well informed.
Do not get swept up by unfounded prejudices. Think of the work of professional journalists as a service that seeks to uncover the different elements that make up our society. We are totally open to talk with our audiences and to listen to their concerns, which is why we continue, and will continue, to be supporters of our democracy, despite the risks.
Our sympathy goes out to the families of Jason Myers and Chip Tayag, and to our colleagues at WBTV.