Mike Graczyk, the correspondent in charge of the Houston bureau of the Associated Press, has been listed on the Media Witness list for 277 death row executions in the state of Texas.
UPDATE (July 3, 2007) — in an email responding to my request for information, Mr. Graczyk estimates that he has witnessed close to 300 executions, though he doesn’t keep track of the actual numbers.
From an article written in 2001 by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
When a death row inmate in Texas walks the final steps from the holding cell to the execution chamber, one thing is almost always certain: Associated Press reporter Mike Graczyk is there.
Five media representatives can witness executions. With a spot always reserved for the AP, Graczyk’s name appears on the media witness list next to every scheduled execution. His observations in the witness room have made him a popular source in stories about capital punishment. And always assured a spot, Graczyk goes into every execution with the assumption that he will act as pool witness afterwards and brief his colleagues about what he saw.
One of the remarkable things about Graczyk’s writing is that you can’t determine his personal opinion on the death penalty from his reporting. I’ve read most of Mr. Graczyk’s reports on executions over the last 3-4 years, and I have no idea if he is for or against the death penalty.
Which is how it should be.
In a time where journalists’ political biases are painfully obvious by reading the slant and spin they put on their stories, it’s refreshing to find a journalist who doesn’t interject his bias into the story — but rather just reports the facts without editorializing.
In the 2001 article, Gracyzk was asked about the media’s roll in reporting these executions:
Graczyk pointed out that he doesn’t only report about executions, but he realizes the importance of media witnesses who perform a watchdog function “in case something does go wrong.”
“I hope it never becomes so routine that the state is allowed to take someone’s life without anyone noticing,” he said.
Watching nearly 300 people be put to death — regardless of how pro- or anti-death penalty one might be — has to weigh tremendously on one’s mind and emotions. Despite that, Mr. Graczyk has remained an objective witness to the execution, and has nobly and consistently fulfilled his responsibilities as a journalist.
I wish more journalists had the same ethical and professional standards of reporting that Mr. Graczyk displays.