AECOM and Paul Goldberger tapped to help realize the Fallen Journalists Memorial

In Pursuit of Truth

AECOM and Paul Goldberger tapped to help realize the Fallen Journalists Memorial

View of a memorial to journalists who have lost their lives at the now-closed Newseum. The tribute inspired the idea for a larger memorial site that will eventually be realized in Washington, D.C. (US Army/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

The Washington, D.C.-based Fallen Journalists Memorial (FJM) Foundation has announced it will work with engineering giant AECOM and Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger to select a site and designer for a planned memorial in the nation’s capital that will pay tribute to the reporters, photojournalists, editors, producers, and others across the world who lost their lives on the job.

In early December of last year, Congress passed the bipartisan Fallen Journalists Memorial Act authorizing the creation of a memorial to be built on federal land within the capital. The bill, which stipulates no federal funds will be used to pay for the future memorial, first cleared the House of Representatives in September and was later signed into law by Donald Trump on December 24.

AECOM will complete a study later this year that will aid in determining an appropriate site in Washington, D.C., based on several criteria, including, as detailed by a FJM Foundation press announcement. That includes universal accessibility, program suitability, tranquility, site prominence and visibility, resiliency and sustainability, security and maintenance, and transportation access. Goldberger, former architecture critic for the New Yorker and New York Times and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, will provide input for the site selection process as well as oversee the selection of a memorial architect and develop the process for “determining the overall design” of the future memorial, per the FJM Foundation.

“As a journalist for most of my career, I am especially moved by the urgent message of the Fallen Journalists Memorial. And as an architecture critic and consultant, I am excited by the challenge of helping the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation give shape and form to this powerful project and bring it to realization,” said Goldberger in a statement. “It is an honor to be a part of the extraordinary team the Foundation has assembled.”

In addition to AECOM and Goldberger, strategic communications firm The Levinson Group has been tapped to aid the FJM Foundation in fundraising and stakeholder engagement.

The message of the memorial, which will stress the crucial function of a free press while honoring the journalists who have perished in the pursuit of truth and transparency, is indeed an urgent one as mentioned by Goldberger. Journalistic traditions and those who carry them out have come under attack in recent years, with sometimes devastating results. Founded by David Dreier, the former chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company (who also served as a Republican member of the House from California from 1981 through 2013), the FJM Foundation was formally established on June 28, 2019. That was one year after a gunman murdered five employees and injured two others at the offices of The Capital, a daily newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, owned by the Baltimore Sun Media Group, a subsidiary of Tribune Publishing.

Operated under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, which is the nonprofit affiliate of the National Press Club, the FJM Foundation is supported by the Annenberg Foundation and the Michael and Jackie Ferro Foundation. Barbara Cochran, professor emerita at the Missouri School of Journalism and former longtime president of the Radio Television Digital News Association, serves as the foundation’s president. The journalists, publishers, news anchors, and others who comprise the FJM Foundation’s board of advisors represent a wide swath of media outlets and news programs, from PBS NewsHour to the far-right, pro-Trump Newsmax.

The inspiration for a national memorial dedicated to fallen journalists came largely from a similar commemorative exhibition housed at the former Newseum in Washington, D.C. Located at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street NW within a $450 million building designed by James Polshek, the Newseum, also supported by the Annenberg Foundation, ultimately closed its doors in 2019 after an over 20-year run, 11 of those spent in its landmark Pennsylvania Avenue home. The building is now owned by Johns Hopkins University; the monumental First Amendment marble slab gracing the building’s facade has been removed and is being reinstalled at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

“We are thrilled to have the expertise of AECOM, The Levinson Group, and Paul Goldberger to help us create the first memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the importance of a free press and to the journalists who’ve given their lives to bring critical information to the public,” said Cochran. “This team will strive to build a memorial that will raise awareness and educate visitors about threats to a free press and journalists globally.”