RICHMOND, Ky. – The SPJ student chapter of Eastern Kentucky University stood in a silent circle as the campus bells rang signaling the journalists who lost their lives in 2001.
The EKU chapter hosted a candlelight vigil March 13 at the center of campus in remembrance of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and other journalists who died in the line of duty during the past two years. A group of eight students and faculty discussed the sacrifices journalists make fighting for the public’s right to know.
SPJ President Jamie Vinson organized the event in an effort to create campus awareness about the significance of the role of the media. Vinson said she hopes those who attended now have a better understanding about why journalists need access to information.
“I think we tend to disregard what our lives would be like without newspapers, radio or television,” Vinson said. “The vigil was a way for us to stop and think about why we need ‘watchdogs’ in our society. It also gave the EKU campus a chance to pay tribute to the hundreds of journalists who risk their lives each day to inform, educate and make our lives better.”
Sarah Heaney, SPJ student member, said freedom of information not only is important during war times, but also “on college campuses, and small and large towns alike.”
“People need to know what is going on and how it is affecting them,” she said. “The vigil really hit home when the bells started chiming, and I realized each peal represented the entire life of a journalist, someone a lot like me who died for the same beliefs I hold.”
“This makes you admire journalists and their sacrifices a little bit more,” said EKU Student Government Association President Nick Bertram. “Journalists provide information that even leaders need.”
Ferrell Wellman, EKU communications professor and chapter adviser, also provided two leather bound books to be signed by members of the Eastern community. Signatures will be gathered throughout March (FOI month) and will be sent to Mariane Pearl (Daniel's widow), once filled.
“I thought it might be something nice for Mrs. Pearl to pick up years later and know that a regional university hundreds of miles away could appreciate her husband’s work and his dedication,” Wellman said.
Also in attendance were Faculty Adviser Libby Fraas, and student members Jennifer Rogers, Gina Vaile and Cassondra Kirby.