On Tuesday 8th November, 2022, at 6:30pm a service was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street to commemorate all those in the media industry whose mission to bring us the news faces peril and uncertainty and sometimes, tragically, demands the ultimate price.
As consumers of news in a fast-changing world, we demand a great deal of our journalists, correspondents, photographers, sound-crew and camera-crew. We expect them to keep us informed and enlightened about difficult and complex situations in the trouble spots of the world, often at great personal risk, and sometimes, tragically, they pay the ultimate price.
So it is important that, as representatives of the media industry, we honour their memory in this service and remind ourselves of the sacrifice they make in order to bring us the truth.
We commemorate and support, too, the support staff – drivers, translators, fixers – who make it possible for them to carry out their work.
But we also come together in this spiritual home of the media – local, regional, national and international – to celebrate the industry, its people and its achievements.
The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce introduced the service:
A very warm welcome to St Bride’s, to what is always one of the most important events of our church’s calendar.
Journalists are under pressure as never before – and our need for a press that can operate freely and without political interference has never been more acute.
On 24th March we held a special service here in support of those who were covering the war in Ukraine – at a time when the tanks were circling Kiev, and we were seriously concerned for the safety and welfare of those who were holed up in underground bunkers.
In June we held a memorial service for Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian-American journalist who was shot dead in Jenin. And throughout the rest of the year countless occasions when we have marked the passing away of members of the industry who have died of natural causes, sometimes heartbreakingly before their time; and mourned the tragic death of those killed accidentally – most recently the brilliant young Times journalist, Tom Leece.
At our service this evening we remember them all; and we also commemorate all those who have died, who by their life and their example remind us of why journalism matters. The outstanding coverage of the death and funeral of Her Majesty the Queen is a further illustration of that.
The photographs inside the front cover of your orders of service tell their own story – and they are a reminder that our ministry here at the Journalists’ Church, is an international ministry and a ministry without boundaries. We are here for people of all faiths and none.
We honour writers, reporters – including those who work freelance – broadcasters, photographers, camera-crew, and their support staff. And we continue to hold in our prayers those who are currently in prison, or held captive.
This year saw the 100th anniversary of the founding of the BBC. We have also marked some more challenging anniversaries. It is ten years since John Cantlie and Austin Tice were taken hostage in Syria.
They are not forgotten. We carry them in our hearts, as we do our very best to support all who feel the pain of their loss, and all whose work puts them in situations of personal danger, as we honour all that is best in the profession we serve.
Thank you all for coming – and our particular thanks to those who will be reading for us and lighting commemorative candles this evening – and a very special welcome to John Irvine, Senior International Correspondent for ITV news, who will be speaking to us tonight.
We begin now with an opening prayer. Let us pray.
in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of justice,
and no strength known but the strength of love:
guide and protect all who seek to bear witness
to the truth of your troubled world;
all who seek to give a voice to the voiceless,
and to tell stories that would otherwise remain untold.
We remember especially this day all members of this profession who have died,
or whose fate is unknown
that you may bless their work,
and strengthen and sustain those who love them.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
John Irvine, Senior International Correspondent, ITV News
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Ladies and Gentlemen – Isn’t it wonderful to be sitting together in one of Christopher Wren’s London masterpieces… sharing a sense of belonging.
St Bride’s is the journalists’ church, our special place…and whether you thank God or thank goodness for it, I think we’re all glad it’s here.
I know that colleagues like Terry Lloyd, Sarah Corp, Geoff Hill and Gaby Rado are among those remembered in this place…in every sense I feel I’m with friends here this evening.
To be a journalist is a privilege and the first impetus to becoming one must surely be an inquisitive mind…a desire to be intrigued and to find honest answers.
Occasionally intrigue can be found in the most prosaic of places.
I recall an anecdote about a weekly newspaper editor in County Donegal, who encouraged his junior staff – his cub reporters – to peruse the classified ads in case a story popped out.
His favourite example was a short ad that read – “Headstone for sale. Would suit family called McAllister.”
Now if that doesn’t make you scratch your head and wonder then nothing will.
As a source of news, WAR is at the other end of the scale from classified ads. There’s not much searching required….It’s in your face and it’s compelling.
Human beings trying to kill each other en masse represents the most fertile of journalistic territory.
As reporters and correspondents, the question we repeatedly ask ourselves when we cover wars, is whether or not our coverage matters… does it make a difference? Obviously I believe the answer is YES.
In August last year I was in Kabul covering the return of Taliban rule and the airlift of coalition forces and the Afghans who worked with them.
I found it depressing. For the previous 20 years the British Army had given life and limb for what we’d been led to believe was a noble and necessary endeavour.
Over those two decades many of us reported from Afghanistan. Obviously there were setbacks but it seemed incremental progress was happening… this was a troubled land slowly tiptoeing towards a better future.
Then suddenly came the Biden kick in the teeth. The Americans were cutting and running and we had to follow suit. Operation Enduring Freedom was concluding as anything but.
Our job was to report abject failure and its consequences. This was news that made for uncomfortable viewing but big audience figures meant the public wanted to know.
Our politicians lauded the professionalism of the withdrawal without mentioning the tragedy behind it.
It seemed to me that in Afghanistan, tyranny prevailed over freedom.
Wind forward to February this year and many of us were in Ukraine waiting for a Russian invasion.
Most of the Ukrainians we met during the countdown were stoic and resolute. They said they would fight.
Experience made some of us sceptical. I’d heard the same pledges of defiance in Baghdad in early 2003.
When it came to Ukraine, the intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic banished some of the ghosts of Iraq when they correctly predicted a Russian attack.
What nobody foresaw however was Ukraine’s ability to fight back. Kyiv was supposed to succumb in a matter of days, yet here we are almost nine months later, and the Ukrainians are doing better than all of us expected.
Obviously no story is worth dying for, but that doesn’t mean some stories aren’t worth risking your life for. Ukraine is one of them because the war there is so consequential.
Anyone who thinks Putin doesn’t pose a threat to us just hasn’t been watching the news.
As Britons head into a tough winter – in part because of what’s happening in Ukraine – I hope our coverage has made a difference by persuading them that the Ukrainians are worthy of our country’s backing.
Our weapons have helped them hang on…..their stoicism and bravery – in my mind – makes them deserving of our continued support.
I believe our extensive and a times, pretty intrepid reporting, has been persuasive in that regard.
Across the UK, this winter may well be one of hardship, but I am yet to hear anyone call for a change of tack on Ukraine to ease the economic pain here.
It seems Britons understand that yet again freedom is up against tyranny.
My first ever reporting job was back in the summer of 1983. There was not much that could prepare you for it. Four soldiers had been killed when an IRA landmine blew up their Land Rover on the Omagh to Ballygawley Road in County Tyrone.
I worked for a weekly newspaper in Omagh back then and would go on to work for Ulster Television and then ITN, where I became Ireland Correspondent.
The job titles changed but for a long time the Northern Ireland story did not. Murders and funerals were our stock in trade.
News organisations didn’t have planning desks back then because they didn’t need them.
For years it seemed our reporting of the bloodshed and heartbreak made no difference…but then in the mid-1990s something changed.
Both sides in the conflict came to the realisation that everyone was losing. It took 30 years of a nightly news digest of misery, but eventually everyone who mattered was persuaded to give peace a chance.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, but by the summer of that year optimism was fading and the historic deal was fraying at the edges. Then in August, I found myself back in Omagh, County Tyrone.
A hangover atrocity carried out by Republican outcasts claimed 29 lives, civilians from across the Northern Ireland spectrum. The horror of Omagh re-galvanised the politicians, reminding them of the price of failure should the Good Friday Agreement collapse.
It’s had its trials and tribulations but that deal is just about intact to this day and as a consequence the Omagh bombing remains not just the worst of the atrocities but the last.
If you end up covering conflicts close up, you often get asked, which was the most dangerous?
For me it’s been the war to eradicate the Islamic State in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq.
The ability of IS to capture huge swathes of territory in 2014 was both alarming and compelling.
I had covered the second Gulf War from Baghdad, where I naively believed nothing could be worse than the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Eleven years after his overthrow a gang of fanatical cut-throats had become the rulers of a land masse roughly the size of the UK.
They mounted a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people, killing the men and enslaving the women.
Our audiences didn’t have to grasp the complexities of the Middle East to understand the primal fear that forced thousands of Yazidis to flee to the top Mount Sinjar to save themselves.
IS ruled by terror…their victims in places like Mosul and Raqqa, were burned alive; drowned and thrown from rooftops.
As regimes go they were a new nadir, perhaps the worst the world had seen since the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 70s.
Aid workers and journalists were among the Westerners captured and murdered on camera by IS.
The cruelty and viciousness forced a response and when American and British trained Iraqi and Syrian YPG forces declared war on IS we had a duty to report it.
Before getting to Mosul Iraqi forces had to liberate several villages on the Nineveh Plains. One of them was the Christian community of Bartella.
One day at dawn, as the advance resumed, myself and my brilliant colleagues – cameraman Sean Swan and producer Lutfi Abu-Aun – found ourselves jumping into an Iraqi armoured truck known as an MRAP
As we drove off the main road into the desert we passed other Iraqi forces, including an Abrams tank; a bulldozer and many Humvee jeeps.
By chance we had ended up in a vehicle with engineers, or sappers, whose job it was to take a convoy straight into IS-held territory.
By the time we realised we were actually in the lead vehicle the die was caste because we could hear IS machine gun bullets pinging off the armoured body shell.
Amid all the chaos and confusion of war we had ended up in the vehicle that was, on that particular day, the tip of the spear in the fight against the Islamic State.
What followed was 9 hours of full-on combat. We were shot at constantly; mortars landed all around us; we witnessed four suicide car bomb attacks, one directly on OUR vehicle.
One of the themes of this service is “Under Pressure” and I can assure you the pressure we experienced that day during the battle for Bartella was off the charts.
Later interviewed by an Australian broadcaster about our experiences, I suggested that had I, at the start of the day, placed a large piece of coal in that longest and deepest of bodily crevices, I would have ended the day with a nice big diamond.
I feel able to share that with you because of course the Aussies broadcast that particular observation.
Islamic State were very good at converting pick-up trucks into suicide car bombs. They would armour plate the front of the vehicle – to protect the driver – and place explosives on the flatbed.
I’d seen video of one ramming an Iraqi tank a few days earlier and it was shocking.
After seeing two suicide explosions during our advance the Iraqi soldiers in the MRAP asked us all to be vigilant and keep a look out.
Sean, Lutfi and I soon spotted a Mad Max contraption shadowing us.
Two Humvees flanking our vehicle started spinning their wheels and rapidly did U-turns so they could flee.
I knew we were not nearly as agile. One of our front tyres had been shot out and come off the wheel rim.
We were driving on a ploughed field that the summer heat had made as hard as concrete. Progress was bouncy and slow and the suicide car bomb was on our tail and gaining ground.
I glimpsed it for the last time when it was about 50 metres behind us. We were done for.
The suicide bomber’s vehicle was weighed down with about four tons of home-made explosives.
The truck we were in was carrying about 200 kilograms of dynamite….the soldiers we had jumped in with were with sappers who sometimes needed to blow things up.
All in all, if the suicide bomber managed to ram us, it would be a really big bang….kingdom come in a split second.
In the event we heard two bangs… the first was the Abrams tank firing its main gun – the second was the tank shell blowing up the suicide car bomb seconds before it rammed us.
The reason I’m sharing this story with you, is because, in the seconds before our lives were saved by that tank crew – in the midst of what seemed to me to be a countdown to the hereafter – I experienced a calmness and a quiet moment of clarity.
As oblivion beckoned I gave thanks for my life, for my wife and for my children. I didn’t beat myself up about being in this predicament. There were no regrets. But then of course, I was only doing my job.
Shamaan Freeman-Powell, Correspondent, Sky News and Fellow, John Schofield Trust, read Ephesians 4: 25-32
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another.
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.
Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Thanks be to God.
Danielle Sheridan, Defence Editor, Daily Telegraph, read an extract from the Address at St Bride’s on 10th November 2010 by Marie Colvin, former Foreign Correspondent, Sunday Times
I am honoured and humbled to be speaking to you at this service tonight to remember the journalists and their support staff who gave their lives to report from the war zones of the 21st century.
Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction and death, and trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash. And yes, it means taking risks, not just for yourself but often for the people who work closely with you.
Despite all the videos you see from the Ministry of Defence or the Pentagon, and all the sanitised language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers, children.
Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice. We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado? Many of you here must have asked yourselves, or be asking yourselves now, is it worth the cost in lives, heartbreak, loss? Can we really make a difference?
Today in this church are friends, colleagues and families who know exactly what I am talking about, and bear the cost of those experiences, as do their families and loved ones.
Today we must also remember how important it is that news organisations continue to invest in sending us out at great cost, both financial and emotional, to cover stories.
We go to remote war zones to report what is happening. The public have a right to know what our government, and our armed forces, are doing in our name. Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.
In an age of 24/7 rolling news, blogs and Twitters, we are on constant call wherever we are. But war reporting is still essentially the same – someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen.
We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.
Rebecca English, Royal Editor, Daily Mail, read Best wishes, Elizabeth R
More than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations were accredited to line Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation route in 1953.
It set the tone for the remainder of her truly remarkable reign, which was conducted under unprecedented media scrutiny.
There were good days and, of course, at least one annus horribilis.
The Queen rose above it all.
And, more importantly for those of us assembled here, she was actually a passionate supporter of the British media in all its glorious – and sometimes infuriating – shapes and sizes.
On engagements her expression was always inscrutable, her manners impeccable – only a clipped ‘Yes, well….’ and an almost imperceptible narrowing of her eyes suggested she was, privately, less than amused at times.
But, crucially, she would always defend our right to say what needed to be said and never once wavered in her understanding of, and appreciation for, journalists’ passion and determination to tell their stories, regardless of the grievous personal cost.
Queen Elizabeth II became Patron of the now Journalists’ Charity in 1953, following in the footsteps of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was a regular – and generous donor – before stepping in as its first patron when the charity was granted its Royal Charter in 1890.
In 2020 she also sent a personal message to mark Journalism Matters Week organised by The News Media Association which is the voice of national and regional organisations in the UK – a £4 billion sector read by 47.4 million adults every month in print and online.
In it she described journalism as a ‘public service’ and hailed the importance of having trusted, reliable sources of information to keep the nation informed amid the modern news landscape, particularly during the Covid pandemic.
If you will forgive me, I’ll read it out briefly as I just don’t think anyone could put it better than HMQ.
She writes from Sandringham: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated what an important public service the established news media provides, both nationally and regionally.
‘As our world has changed dramatically, having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital.
‘The efforts of the news media to support communities throughout the United Kingdom during the pandemic have been invaluable – whether through fundraising, encouraging volunteering, or providing a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable to the outside world.’
The message came, as so many announcements did over her 70 exceptional years on the throne, with ’best wishes’ Elizabeth R.
The St Bride’s Choir and the organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:
Ubi caritas – Maurice Duruflé
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem – John Blow
Both sides now – Joni Mitchell arr. Evan Ramos
Who shall separate us? – James MacMillan
Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV 733 – Johann Sebastian Bach
O praise ye the Lord!
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
Tell out, my soul
Photo: A Palestinian journalist records the rubble of the severely damaged Al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza City on 12th May 2021 after it was hit by Israeli airstrikes amid the escalating flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Momen Faiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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