April 19, 2019
Losing a Friend of Journalism
Last night, Lyra McKee was killed.
She was a 29-year-old freelance journalist in Northern Ireland who had spent much of her career covering the impact of her country’s long struggle with violence and unrest. That’s what she was doing last night, on the streets of Derry, covering an outbreak of violence on the eve of Good Friday — the anniversary of the historic peace deal in Northern Ireland two decades ago.
She was caught in the crossfire and killed. Not long before that, she tweeted a photo of emergency vehicles and smoke rising in the distance and wrote, “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.” One of her editors, Lilly Dancyger, tweeted “Lyra McKee was dedicated to covering the lasting trauma & violence of the Troubles. Devastating to hear she was killed tonight by that same violence.”
I first met Lyra online years ago when she was just starting out in journalism — she was a constant presence in Twitter chats and online conversations — and we connected in person at a few conferences when she made it to the US. She was deeply passionate, enormously skilled, and fiercely caring. As news of her death spread last night, my Twitter feed was filled with remembrances. Facebook groups where she’d asked for help during the time that she called herself an “emerging journalist” looked back on years of thoughtful feedback and support. Friends and family online and off spoke about how she touched their lives and careers.
I’m devastated by the news of Lyra’s death. I feel the profound weight of this horrific event.
I think of Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, John McNamara, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo, Jamal Khashoggi, Kim Wall, and countless others who have sacrificed so much to gather the truth and tell it to the world. I think about all of you who walk into the newsroom each day, who walk into your communities, who walk towards the uncertainty and unrest, who are driven by the urgency to bear witness, to inform, to report.
I’m so grateful for the work you do. I know it can be exhausting, I know it can be a struggle, I know it can be dangerous. But I also know it can be joyous, and that your work can help heal and mend, as well as reveal and expose. And I know that for so many of you, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of her friends shared Lyra’s last tweet from the scene of the riots in Derry and wrote, “I wish you hadn’t gone out but I know you had to.” I know a lot of you can relate. And I know that our communities and our democracy are better because you do.
The best way to remember Lyra is through her amazing work:
- Decades After Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” Families of the Dead are Still Seeking Answers—and Taking the Investigations Into Their Own Hands – Narratively
- Suicide of the Ceasefire Babies – Mosaic Science
- In Memory Of – TEDx
- Letter to My 14 Year Old Self – The Pensive Quill
If you would like to donate to support her family and honor her legacy there is a GoFundMe set up here.
Please stay safe and take care of each other. If you need to talk with someone during this hard time you can text HOME to 741741 to get free 24-7 support from Crisis Text Line. Or hit reply – we’re always here for you.
This post originally appeared in the Local Fix, a weekly newsletter about key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news.