All of the words written for this issue of Nieman Reports revolve around an organizing thought: What does courage look like in the practice of journalism? This seemed to us a journey of reflection worth taking at a time when the lives of reporters are in peril on the frontlines of war; when dictatorial governments threaten and harass reporters and editors whose work demonstrates their independence; when invigorated prosecutorial efforts are underway to try to force reporters to reveal sources on stories about heretofore secret U.S. government policies and programs, and when public trust in the press is low and new media voices challenge journalists’ roles as the primary conveyors of information and watchdogs of powerful institutions.
Courage, as these journalists remind us, exposes itself in different guises. It can be found in the wisdom of understanding when danger finally has outweighed the risk. Or it can surface when threats to personal safety lurk but the lessons of training combine with inner strength to push fear aside and persevere. Courage can reside, too, in a journalist’s isolation when editorial stands taken shake the foundation of friendship and sever long-held ties to one’s community. In this issue, glimpses of such journalistic courage are offered.