By Phil Williams, WTVF-Nashville
In my mind, Don Bolles had always been a hero of journalism — a reporter who stood up against intimidation and eventually paid the price with his life.
But in recently listening to the podcast, “Rediscovering: Don Bolles, a murdered journalist,” the late Arizona Republic journalist became more than a legendary figure.
Recordings of his voice revealed Bolles to be a real human being, one who struggled to nail down a story that he believed to be immensely important to his state. It was a story that sparked efforts to intimidate him and, understandably, led to his own intense fears and suspicions about the potential source of the next threat.
Yet, he persevered.
In 2017, when I served on the IRE Board, we created the Don Bolles Medal to memorialize the legacy of one of IRE’s earliest members.
Our goal was also, at a time when journalism is increasingly under attack, to recognize the heroes of our day and send a message that we all stand together.
The first recipient, awarded posthumously, was Mexican journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea, who was gunned down in retaliation for her efforts to exposed organized crime and corruption in her own country.
In 2018, the Don Bolles Medal went to Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were imprisoned in Myanmar for their reporting on human rights abuses in the place they called home.
Last year, IRE recognized Turkish journalist Pelin Ünker, who had been threatened with prison for truthfully reporting on the offshore business dealings of key government officials.
Now, once again, we are pondering this important question:
According to the guidelines for the Don Bolles Medal, the recipients must be “investigative journalists.” Not activists. Not opinion writers. But reporters who are out in the trenches attempting to dig up truths that someone else would like to keep hidden.
In addition, the recipients must have “exhibited extraordinary courage in standing up against intimidation or efforts to suppress the truth about matters of public importance.” That, for sure, means death threats, but it can also be other forms of intimidation.
Do you know someone who has faced harassment lawsuits in an effort to thwart legitimate investigations? Or perhaps someone who has faced intense online harassment in retaliation for important investigative reporting? Or efforts by high public officials to stir up public ire against investigative journalists? Or the use of private investigators as a form of intimidation?
Who is that person or persons who best exemplify the legacy of Don Bolles?
IRE needs your help.