This New Years’ Eve, 11 journalists were invited to take the stage in Times Square to press the crystal button and initiate the descent of the NYE ball. The Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment decided to officially dedicate this year’s famous New Years’ Eve ball drop to the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ.
Journalists and editors from many major media outlets attended, including Alisyn Camerota from CNN, Vladimir Duthiers from CBS, and Jon Scott from Fox News. Also in attendance was Karen Attia, editor for the Washington Post who worked with Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist who was killed at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul.
Previous honorees tasked with the role of initiating ceremony were well-known public figures such as Muhammad Ali and Lady Gaga. While CPJ is not as widely known to the public, they were picked due to recent events around the world concerning the media. In an interview with ABC News, Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said that the dedication was first brought to their attention after the death of Khashoggi.
In recent years, the threat to journalists has significantly increased, specifically in 2018 with the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland. According to the CPJ, in the past year, 53 journalists have been killed, and 251 have been imprisoned because of matter related to their profession.
“On New Year’s Eve we look back and reflect on the major events of the past year, we look forward with a sense of hope, and we celebrate the people and things we value most,” said Tompkins in an official statement.
The CPJ is a non- profit founded in 1981 that works to protect journalists and advocates for freedom of the press around the world. CPJ also defends journalists in legal matters.
The tradition of the ball dropping on New Years began in 1907. Since then, the long-standing tradition has been recognized worldwide and has become part of a routine in many New Years’ celebrations. While all of the past honorees were “famous,” this years’ ceremony in Times Square was seen by tens of millions of people.