Oct 162003
Authors: Colleen Buhrer

“One morning in the latter part of March, Task Force Barker

moved out from its firebase headed for ‘Pinkville.’ Its mission:

destroy the trouble spot and all of its inhabitants,” says a letter

written by Ron Ridenhour to Congress and the Pentagon that began

the My Lai investigation. The horrific My Lai massacre became the

most infamous massacre of the Vietnam War.

He goes on to say, “It was so bad…that one of the men in his

squad shot himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the

area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter.

Gruver estimated that the population of the village had been 300 to

400 people and that very few, if any, escaped.”

Ron Ridenhour served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. After he

returned from Vietnam in 1969, he wrote this letter, which brought

the My Lai massacre to the attention of the American public and the

world. After the war, Ridenhour became an investigative journalist

exposing things such as a New Orleans tax scandal, for which he won

the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism in 1998,

according to The Fertel Group Web site,


Ridenhour died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52 and an award

has been created in his honor to reward courageous truth telling.

“The Ron Ridenhour Awards memorialize and foster the spirit of

fearless truth-telling that one-time whistleblower and life-time

investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his

extraordinary life and career,” according to www.fertel.com.

Wednesday the first Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling award

was given to Joseph C. Wilson IV, according to a Washington Post


“Wilson, 53, is the retired diplomat who was sent by the CIA to

Niger last year to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy

‘yellowcake’ uranium there for possible use in nuclear weapons. In

July he accused the Bush administration of using the bogus

allegations to help make a case for war. President Bush later

backed away from the claim,” wrote Washington Post reporter Reilly


Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst, was also

awarded with the Ron Ridenhour Courage Award. Ellsberg leaked the

Pentagon Papers more than 30 years ago and was introduced as the

“the ultimate whistle-blower.” Ellsberg hauled “7,000 pages of the

government’s secretary history of the Vietnam War out of the

Pentagon in the middle of the night,” the Washington Post


These men were honored for what journalists everywhere should be

striving to achieve. As American citizens we are given the ultimate

opportunity to express our opinions and question what our

government is doing. As journalists, our job is to more forcefully

question the practices of our government for the citizens, which

can not do it themselves.

As a free press, our job is to act as a watchdog of the

government for the public. Journalists need to keep the government

honest but consistently report the truth that they find. These

three men have done just that. Ridenhour, Wilson and Ellsberg all

exposed government mistakes and did the best they could to inform

the public of the whole truth.

Journalists everywhere should aspire to be like these men. As

journalists, we have an awesome outlet to inform the public of what

there government is doing and it is our job to use that outlet

responsibly and to make sure the truth is known.

The Society of Professional Journalists, the largest journalism

organization in the nation, has a code of ethics, which most

journalists follow. The first (as thus most important) thing in

that code is seek truth and report it. “Journalists should be

honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and

interpreting information.”

Colleen is the managing editor for The Collegian. Her column

regularly runs on Mondays. Colleen’s future ambitions include

working for the C.I.A. after graduate school.





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