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EDITORIAL

An American journalist martyred in Ukraine

Brent Renaud’s brand of courage special but not unique among those committed to bringing the world the truth.

Brent Renaud attends the 74th Annual Peabody Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015, in New York.Charles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Brent Renaud didn’t set out to be a martyr. He was in Ukraine to do what journalists do — get the story, tell it well, and bring home the realities of a war being fought far from these American shores.

He paid for that commitment to the truth — that desire to get it right — with his life when he was gunned down over the weekend at a military checkpoint in Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv. He was there shooting a documentary on the global refugee crisis for Time Studios.

An award-winning documentary filmmaker who, with his brother Craig, had covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violence perpetrated by drug cartels in Mexico, and the earthquake in Haiti, Renaud was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard in 2019.

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Brent Renaud took this photo of Quinn Foster, founder of Arkansas Hate Watch, for a Boston Globe Ideas article in 2020. Foster led a Black Lives Matter protest that year in a town with a history of support for white supremacy.Brent Renaud for the Boston Globe

“I don’t think we are adrenaline junkies like some of the war correspondents who we know,” Brent Renaud told an interviewer for Curator magazine in 2009. “We don’t seek out the dangerous assignments. But once we are committed to a story, we are willing to do whatever it takes to tell that story.”

It’s something of a journalists’ creed that simply becomes more dangerous when bullets are flying and bombs are going off.

Wounded in the same Russian attack that killed Renaud was fellow journalist Juan Arredondo. Arredondo’s evacuation by Ukrainian medics as he clutched his camera to his chest on the stretcher — filmed by a crew from the German newspaper Bild — speaks to that creed and that mindset.

Renaud was the second journalist to be killed in the Ukraine war. Yevhenii Sakun, a TV cameraman, was one of five people killed when Russian forces fired on the Kyiv TV tower on March 1, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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Two Sky News journalists were shot early in the invasion in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, their injuries not reported until the two were safely evacuated. Russian troops shot at and robbed a freelance Swiss journalist near the village of Vodyano-Lorino in southern Ukraine on March 6, CPJ notes on its website.

Meanwhile, the committee also reports that at least 150 of Russia’s few remaining independent journalists have fled Russia in recent days in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s latest efforts to stamp out anything resembling truthful reporting of the war in Ukraine or the protests within Russia.

Many have landed in the former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia — where Russian remains a common language — to set up operations in exile and try to gather news from Ukraine and inside Russia and get it back to those within their home country, where now anything other than Putin’s propaganda is hard to find.

It takes a special kind of courage to carry on no matter what.

It takes a special kind of courage to enter a war zone where, from the very start, none of the rules have applied, where “PRESS” on the back of a flak jacket might as well be a bull’s-eye.

Brent Renaud had that kind of courage — and a generous helping of heart as well. He was not alone in his mission to bring the world the stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times. Hundreds of others remain committed to that task — and today continue to put their lives on the line to bring those stories to life, to share them with the world.

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Renaud will be missed and he will be mourned. But the work goes on, and we are grateful to those who remain to do it.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.