The day Gene Patterson died, Greek anarchists set off bombs in the homes of five journalists. There was no direct connection between the legendary editor’s death in Florida and the explosions in Athens. But it focused my attention on the state of modern journalism and the vulnerability of those who practice it. Patterson was a giant: as editor of the Atlanta Constitution in the 1960s, he became the conscience of the South, demanding justice for Blacks while explaining the complexities of his region to the rest of the country. Later, at The Washington Post, he oversaw the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. He was a man of enormous courage. In Greece, journalists are being attacked from all sides, part of a worldwide assault on the press. Three issues are combining to create the lethal situation. The first, and by far the most serious, are attacks on the press and its practitioners, fomented by sitting governments and marauding thugs. The attacks are political, psychic, physical – and effective: 70 journalists were killed last year and six already in 2013. The second is the profession’s own self-destruction, as bad reporting, crass partisanship and corporate greed have shattered public respect for the institution. People wanted to kill Eugene Patterson, but they never questioned his integrity. Finally, the old economics of journalism no longer work. As the only business specifically protected by the Constitution, journalism is a unique combination of private enterprise and public trust. If we neglect the second part of that equation in pursuit of the first, the dead reporters will have died – and Gene Patterson will have labored – in vain.