The Church

In the heart of London, just off Fleet Street, a tall white steeple resembling a wedding cake soars above St. Bride’s Church. Surrounded by iron gates and shrubbery, the stone structure remains a place of worship for the journalists who once worked in the area.

Inside the church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, light pours through the windows. Choir stalls line the center aisle. Behind each stall, a plaque honors the news organizations and journalists who have exposed wrongdoing and informed the world for decades.

In the back corner, just to the left of the main altar, a smaller altar displays pictures of journalists who have been held hostage or killed while reporting. A wooden plaque reads: “At this altar, day by day, we pray for all those who face danger, persecution, and death in bringing the truth in word and pictures to a troubled world.”

One such picture shows Kate Peyton, a 39-year-old BBC senior producer who was shot and killed in 2005 while on assignment in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

The People

Few BBC journalists have been killed on duty. When they do lose their lives, an investigation examines the cause and what was done. “With Kate’s death there was an inquest,” said Sam Whipple, BBC’s change coordinator. “The courts will have a look at it, and they make various recommendations and investigate everything that we did or didn’t do.”

Kate Peyton

BBC reporters and correspondents take special training to prepare them for the harsh conditions they could face overseas. “There’s a hostile environments course that if you go abroad, you go on,” Whipple said. “They take you hostage in the middle of the course. They take you through what it’s like and teach you all sorts of things, like hiding behind a brick wall isn’t a good idea if bullets are flying around because bricks don’t stop bullets. Basic things like that. So safety and security is really important.”

But sometimes things go wrong. And when they do, counseling is available for those who need emotional support. “You try to do it with a human touch,” Whipple said. One death is too many, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

The Press

St. Bride’s has been the church of journalists since the first printing press was brought to the site around 1500. According to the St. Bride’s website, the church holds weddings, baptisms and memorial services for those affiliated with the media.

In the early 1990s St. Bride’s held a vigil for the hostages held in Lebanon, especially the journalists John McCarthy and Terry Anderson. A plaque above the memorial altar commemorates this vigil.

Just below that plaque is one that reads: “In memory of those who lost their lives while covering the war in Iraq. AD 2003.” A list of names and their corresponding media outlet follows. A quote by Wilfred Owen rests at the bottom: “My subject is war, and the pity of war.”

“I think it’s one of those careers where you can’t eradicate risk all together,” Whipple said. “If you’re going to cover the news, you have got to go into dangerous areas. But sometimes things happen.”

And when they do, St. Bride’s Church will remember those who pursue the truth.

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