When I was growing up in Arizona, it was rare to see my home state hit the national news. One of the first times I saw it happen was in the Summer of 1976, when Don Bolles, a reporter for the Arizona Republic, was killed by a bomb planted in his car. He was killed while on his way to visit with a source for an ongoing series he was doing uncovering corruption among state officials and developers. Bolles is still an important figure in Arizona journalism. The Arizona Press Club has an award named for him.
Last week, news of threats against the Arizona Republic were revealed in an editorial by Republic president Mi-Ai Parrish. Threats against journalists are bad enough, but the fact that they are again being directed at the Republic given this history is particularly unsettling. What is chilling is that many of the callers knew this history and invoked Bolles’ name.
More chilling is that the threats were made in response to the Republic’s presidential endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
It can be hard to see the sacrifice made by Bolles, or those made of the 32 journalists killed worldwide so far this year, as comparable to what are, god willing, idle threats made by anonymous callers.
Think about this for a minute: what is the aim of the people that called the Republic office? Some of it is blowing off steam in what’s been an ugly election. Many, however, are hoping to silence the expression of truths and opinions not of their liking. That doesn’t sound too far off from the aims of thugs and dictators around the world.
We need to recognize these threats as not just an attack on the Republic or more broadly on journalism, but on democracy and the exchange of ideas. That’s why it is important for all of us who write, whether we are journalists, novelists or poets, to stand with the staff and employees of the Arizona Republic.
I don’t often agree with the editorials in the Republic, and they even wrote a sarcastic take-down of me once. Still, journalism, even opinion journalism, is vital work in a free society, and we need to stand firm against those that want to silence it.