Nicholson News

Visit From Parents of Steven Sotloff Highlights A Bright Life, and Journalism’s Impact

December 1, 2015

On Nov. 16, The UCF College of Sciences and the Nicholson School of Communication (NSC) were honored to welcome Shirley and Arthur Sotloff to an event celebrating the life, spirit and fulfilled ideals of their son, Steven Sotloff. A freelance journalist who wrote for Time and Christian Science Monitor, Steven was an NSC student from 2002-2004. While covering the Syrian civil war, Steven was kidnapped in August 2013. On Sept. 2, 2014, at age 31, he lost his life at the hands of militants of the Islamic State.

NSC’s Associate Instructor of Journalism Rick Brunson introduced the Sotloffs on the evening of the commemorative event. Steven’s parents discussed profound memories of their son’s commitment, which was to emphasize stories affecting common people, giving voice to the voiceless and giving witness to those who are suffering.

After the event, Brunson had comments regarding his perspective as a journalism instructor, knowing of Steven Sotloff’s purpose and experience, meeting Steven’s parents, and being part of the memorial event at UCF.  “Meeting the Sotloffs and hearing the story of their ordeal is one of the most moving experiences I’ve had as a faculty member at UCF. Their courage, poise and generous desire to extend their son’s legacy to current and future journalism students at UCF is an amazing testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. To see them place compassion and generosity in front of anger and sadness – in the face of such utter brutality and barbarity – is mind-blowing,’’ Brunson said.

A Nov. 17 article titled after the event, “The Life and Light of Steven Sotloff,” written by Isabelle D’Antonio and published on the independent, UCF-student run news website KnightNews.com, reviews the evening. According to this article, of the more than 100 people in attendance at the UCF memorial, 85 were journalism students. The article includes video excerpts, a photo montage credited to Aileen Perilla and quotes from the Sotloffs. The Central Florida Future published “Steven Sotloff’s Legacy Lives on in UCF Students,” an article written by Deanna Ferrante, reflecting several UCF students’ sentiments quoted, as well.

During their talk, the Sotloffs raised awareness about an impactful foundation created to honor and continue their son’s legacy.  2LIVES: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation will provide scholarships for journalism students. A website devoted to Steven’s life and to the foundation honoring him is found at www.2livesfoundation.org, with a detailed mission statement found at this link. Included in this description is a link to an article of global significance, published by the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia Journalism School. It details the Sotloffs’ participation, along with that of four major U.S. television news networks, in a new Global Safety Principles and Practices Initiative. The coalition represents an alliance of major news companies, freelance reporters and non-profit journalism groups organized to promote safety and endorse worldwide protection standards for journalists.

Although Steven Sotloff had not been one of Rick Brunson’s students at UCF, Mr. Brunson had already lent his heart, mind and pen to Steven Sotloff’s story earlier this year. Perhaps the occasion of Steven’s recent UCF memorial bears rereading of Brunson’s article, “Give Light and the People Will Find Their Own Way,” published in June 2015 in the Huffington Post. In this essay, Brunson reflected on what is evident in the efforts and accomplishments of journalists such as Steven Sotloff, for whom Brunson said reporting is not “a job, a paycheck, a vocation or even a profession.” Brunson writes that, “By reporting the news – going headlong to the center of the story and telling it from the inside…by observing, digging and scraping out facts and details about how real people are being impacted by conflict – Steven believed in an ideal that all journalists share.

The UCF College of Sciences posted this news article, The Light and Life of Steven Sotloff, also providing details of the Sotloffs’ visit to UCF. Directing coordination of the event was College of Sciences Director of Development Ray Allen, with organization for logistics of the event by Rick Brunson, Tim Brown, Boyd Lindsley and Christin Senior and other staff at NSC. Nicholson School of Communication benefactors Tony and Sonja Nicholson, among members in leadership and administration of the COS and NSC, were also among those in attendance.

Editor’s Note:  The UCF-based Steven Sotloff Memorial Endowed Fund provides scholarship support to UCF students majoring in journalism, as well as funding for symposia, lectures and other programming to advance journalism and journalism education. To learn more about or to make a donation to this fund, established by the UCF Foundation, Inc., please click here

“Meeting the Sotloffs and hearing the story of their ordeal is one of the most moving experiences I’ve had as a faculty member at UCF. Their courage, poise and generous desire to extend their son’s legacy to current and future journalism students at UCF is an amazing testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. - NSC Associate Instructor of Journalism, Rick Brunson”