Today, we’d planned to hit publish on the launch post for the new clippings.me blog. After watching the sickening events that unfolded in Paris today, I’ve decided to write something different instead.
I got my first proper journalism job in France, in a Paris newsroom just a few blocks away from today’s atrocity. As well as my break in this industry, it was the place that I lived and where clippings.me was conceived, the start of the journey which led to you reading this blog post today. Like many in our industry, I feel deeply that this was a personal attack on the values I – and millions of others – hold dear.
All of us, and no more so than those in the news media, now have a personal responsibility to think about the way that we respond to the murder of innocent individuals doing their job.
Primarily we have a responsibility to fight harder for freedom of expression, which we know is under threat. This isn’t the first cowardly action we’ve seen against a publication which has lawfully published material some consider offensive, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Every attack should strengthen our resolve and our journalistic commitment to free speech and plurality of opinion.
We also have a responsibility to explain. There will be a few who aren’t sickened by what happened today and there will be many more who don’t see the significance. It’s our job to engage, to diligently and accurately explain what happened so that the world understands why it’s important that publications aren’t beholden to anybody but their readers, even when the adversaries are armed with Kalashnikovs.
Finally, the deaths of cartoonists, journalists, editors, graphic designers and police officers reminds us that behind every page we read, there is a human story. These horrendous acts will rightly dominate our thoughts tonight, but 61 journalists lost their lives doing their job last year, and hundreds were detained. We owe it to these colleagues to remember them every day.
As I write, thousands of people have congregated in Paris’ Place de la Republique in solidarity with the victims of today’s attacks. Reporters Without Borders has published an appeal for news organisations around the world to publish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. Millions are expressing their outrage on social media and politicians and religious leaders from around the world have condemned the attack. As a society, we have come too far to shrink from those who would see our words censored and our debate stifled.
Instead, it’s precisely because of events like today that journalists, illustrators, bloggers, editors and other content creators continue with their mission to make us think about the type of world we all want to live in. It’s our responsibility to create and to define the common values which shape our society.
Today, we are all Charlie.
My thanks to the writers from around the world who have filed copy and are expecting to see it online this week – it will be published a few days later than planned.