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The world of journalism is a tumultuous one, and journalists themselves are seen as something of a mixed bag. For every hard hitting Woodward or Bernstein cracking a Watergate, there are seemingly dozens of plagiarists, frauds and crooks. However, there are also those who exemplify the essence of the free press, people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for reporting the truth. Here are five to remember.
Who He Was:
After working his way up from radio to local television, he moved around before getting a job co-hosting a morning TV show. He got his big break when he was promoted to NBC network news, and went to Vietnam. He was literally so untouchable, they started calling him “Mr. Lucky” for his ability to avoid death in the jungle. He even started racking in Emmys and awards for his investigative skills.
The Last Story:
Harris went to Georgetown, Guyana, in South America to investigate the Peoples Temple cult at their commune in nearby Jonestown. The People’s Temple, and by extension their leader Jim Jones, were accused of a number of crimes including kidnapping and torture. Harris, along with California congressman Leo Ryan and three NBC employees (Bob Flick, Bob Brown and Steve Sung) went to tour the intentional community.
As the group was boarding the plane to leave in nearby Port Kaituma, members of the cult gunned down Harris, Brown, the congressman, a photographer and a defecting temple member. The entire cult residing in Jonestown would commit suicide later that day. The events would spread fears of cult behavior and new religious movements for decades.
Who He Was:
After getting his college degree and being so awesome the President of the university gave him an award just for being him, he fought in Korea. When he came back home he parlayed his lack of fear of enemy aircraft into a job taking on the mafia. He began writing for the Arizona Reporter, and developed a reputation because he actually reported the terrible things people were doing. Guess where this is going.
The Last Story:
Bolle’s mob hunting activities got to the point where he started taping the hood of his car to make sure nobody was sabotaging it. Even when he started getting away from investigations in the mid-seventies, he maintained his hardnosed attitude. In fact, he was pursuing a lead in June of ’76 about a shady land deal involving high profile politicians and the mob when he was killed.
After waiting for his informant at a local hotel, he returned to his car. A remote controlled bomb, strapped under the driver’s side, exploded once the car was started. Possibly because even Death himself had so much respect for the man, Bolles survived ten days and multiple amputations. Before finally succumbing to his injuries, his final words were: “They finally got me, the Mafia. Emprise. Find John.” Apparently not content with being awesome in life, these last remarks implicated everyone responsible in his death. The John in question, John Harvey Adamson, was found guilty of planting the bomb, though the man who ordered the hit wasn’t imprisoned for decades. An entire gallery in the museum of news and journalism (The Newseum in Washington) is dedicated to Bolles’ work and memory.
Who He Was:
Born into Haitian high society (a.k.a. the French), Dominique received an education back in Paris before returning to his homeland. There he helped so many farmers escape economic slavery that the landowners convinced the government to put him jail (apparently that’s a thing). After he got out, he started sticking it to pretty much everybody that deserved it, speaking on the radio in language of the common people. The local language station was actually a first for the country where almost all press was in the language of the ruling class. Over the next 30 years he was exiled twice but returned both times to keep telling it like it is. Naturally, he made enemies in the process.
The Last Story:
His persistence when it came to fighting injustice earned him a laundry list of ill-wishers. In particular, he made enemies with the pharmaceutical company Pharval Labratories (who sold tainted medicine that killed kids) and Senator/police chief Dany Toussaint (who abused his power and probably had his rival killed).
While heading to work at the radio station he had founded, Dominique was shot four times. An investigation eventually led to the arrest of six people involved, but never turned up the person on top. Toussaint, most suspiciously, refused to speak about it, citing his parliamentary immunity. He would go so far as to threaten to kill anyone who tried to revoke said immunity, which apparently isn’t a big enough tip off. Dominique’s family fled to the United States, and in Haiti he is still considered a national hero.
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