We know ISIS is evil. We know the United States needs to pursue some kind of action. We know the death of Steven Sotloff was unjustified and evil — but what we haven't been able to solely focus on is the important role that Sotloff played overseas.
While there is no doubt that it takes courage to venture into a war zone, we often forget how incredibly important it is for media to be reporting on issues surrounding the front lines. The sacrifice Sotloff made for our country was a significant one, and one that should not be underestimated in any way. He had the chutzpah to venture overseas and cover the issues so many of us are too afraid to even touch.
Perhaps UCF's own faculty put it best when journalism department head Kimberly Voss said, "… Not all of us are willing take the kind of chances as those who cover dangerous combat-type journalism. That's a special kind of person, but they do it on behalf of all of us."
The media gets a bad rap in most cases. We understand that the general public is soured on the idea of journalism in many ways and doesn't always trust what it hears, but can you imagine a world where international reporters such as Steven Sotloff decide to pack it up and come home for a nice insurance job? Can you imagine a world where no one is paying attention to these issues overseas?
You think ISIS is scary? Imagine how much more scary it would be if we didn't have the media reporting on the international issues that make ISIS relevant. We shudder to think of the how the world would be if reporters didn't have the courage to tell these very important stories.
Before Sotloff was taken hostage, his Facebook posts reveal how intense the setting of the Middle East was for a journalist. He wrote: "Riot police came out for some reason in Antakya today. I was pepper sprayed in the face and thrown to the ground. Some plain-clothed cops then confiscated my camera and detained me. They were very cordial after and even returned my camera a few hours later (with a blank memory card, of course). Moral of the story: don't take pictures of Turkish riot police in action."
We're very fortunate in the United States as media correspondents. While our country has its issues, our media has incredible privilege and, overall, is respected by police and government entities. We must never forget how important these freedoms are, especially when we are faced with issues such as the beheading of one of our own.
Sotloff holds a special place in the heart of our publication, as he worked for us during his time at UCF. But moreover, we hope he holds a special place in the hearts of Americans who witnessed his courage, and the hearts of future journalists bold enough to venture to dangerous places in pursuit of telling the important stories the world needs to know.
We commend you, Steven Joel Sotloff. We respect your sacrifice and we certainly hope you rest peacefully.
And to Sotloff's family, we hope Americans can stand behind us when we say we are proud of the work he did overseas and the courage he had to do so.