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First American journalist dies in Iraq


Robert Leger, SPJ national president, (417) 425-9140

The Society of Professional Journalists mourns the death of Michael Kelly, the first American journalist to die in Iraq.

Kelly, editor-at-large for Atlantic Monthly and columnist for The Washington Post, left the safety of an American office to return to his roots as a reporter. He was traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division near the Euphrates River when he died in a Humvee accident. Kelly is the fourth journalist to die during the war. Two British journalists and one Australian journalist died in earlier incidents.

“Michael Kelly was a great editor, a great reporter and a great writer. His death is a loss for journalism and to this nation,” said Robert Leger, SPJ president and editorial page editor at the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. “He was like the vast majority of reporters covering the war in Iraq, risking their lives to let Americans see how this war is being fought so they can measure the performance of our leaders.

“In a week when the antics of two high-profile television journalists have grabbed headlines and cast a cloud over our profession, it is good to remember that most journalists in Iraq are responsibly doing their jobs in extraordinary circumstances. They have sacrificed the comforts of home to place themselves in harm’s way and serve the public. Michael Kelly’s death is a somber reminder of what journalists put on the line.”

SPJ’s thoughts are with his family and colleagues.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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