EDITORIAL: Ukraine proves we need journalists covering wars now more than ever

“Sunshine Week” is a national weeklong holiday started by the American Society of News Editors in 2005 that celebrates the ability to access public information and promote government accountability. In light of the death and injury of several reporters in Ukraine during ‘Sunshine Week’ last week, it’s time to talk about why the public’s right to access information becomes especially critical during wars and the roles reporters play in that. 

When hearing reports of journalists killed, especially American journalists, it may be tempting to think “oh, what were they doing there anyway?” To come to that conclusion, let’s examine two photojournalists in Ukraine right now and the crucial work they’re doing. 

Lynsey Addario is a seasoned, Pulitzer-prize winning conflict photojournalist who has been everywhere from Afghanistan covering women’s issues to humanitarian issues in Africa. Addario was even kidnapped by pro-Gaddafi forces during the Libyan civil war, yet still returns to the scenes of these conflicts as a photojournalist to show the world what is happening. 

Two weeks ago, Addario made national headlines when the New York Times published a photo she took of a Ukrainian family killed by Russian mortars while fleeing the country. Addario was working on a story about the displaced war refugees. At the time of snapping the photo, she was on a road considered “safe” for fleeing residents – until the fateful moment Addario heard a familiar ring in the air, taking cover behind a wall shortly before the mortars struck. When she emerged, Addario saw a family lying dead in the road.

Though Addario was at first hesitant in taking the photo, she realized had to prove to the world that Russia was purposefully targeting civilians. Addario took the photo, cementing a piece of history with her lens. Without people like Addario, proof of Russia’s war crimes wouldn’t exist.

Addario is far from the only photojournalist currently risking their lives in Ukraine. Los Angeles Times photojournalist Marcus Yam is newer to conflict reporting than Addario and other experienced war reporters, but has covered events such as Afghanistan when U.S. forces pulled out and the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico. Yam posts daily photo essays of what he witnesses in Ukraine. 

Many of these photos aren’t easy to look at – and that’s the point. However, Yam has a special gift of bringing humanity back to these conflicts, reminding those of us scrolling and seeing these images on social media about the human suffering this war has brought upon Ukraine. An example of this work is a photo Yam took of a man comforting a dog too scared to move, attempting to bring the terrified pet to safety. 

Comments reacting to this scene poured out on Twitter, with this single picture tugging on the heartstrings of people all over the world. In the midst of pictures of destroyed buildings and bodies, Yam’s work helps people see another side of this conflict – the human side – every day. 

Without journalists like Addario and Yam, no one would be on the ground to tell these stories. Like Addario points out in her interview with The National, photojournalists play a key role in conflicts because to take a picture, they have to see something with their own two eyes. Camera lenses don’t lie.

Through camera lenses in Ukraine, these journalists and many others have documented war crimes committed by Russian forces. Through their lenses, they’ve shown us the resilience and bravery of the Ukrainian people. Through their lenses, they’ve highlighted the true devastation of war, in hopes that people will steer away from it entirely one day in the future. 

The Coast Report Editorial Board stands in support and admiration of the many journalists risking their lives in Ukraine to make sure the world knows what’s really happening. We encourage you to do the same. 


The Coast Report Editorial Board consists of the editor in chief and section editors. One member of the editorial board writes the editorial and this rotates throughout the semester. 

Editorial topics are pitched by all members of the board and a single topic is selected for each editorial. Each editorial board member votes on their position on the selected topic and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a tie on the first vote, editorial board members engage in continued discussion and state the reasons for their initial vote. A second vote is then taken and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a second tied vote, the editorial position will be decided at the discretion of the editor in chief.


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