Michael Kelly was the first U.S. journalist killed in Iraq last week when the Humvee he was riding in crashed.
Kelly was an excellent writer and editor. He will be missed.
When word of Kelly's demise hit the Union-Tribune's watercooler, the consensus seemed to be that he shouldn't have been there in the first place -- he's a columnist, not a beat reporter.
Predictably, I'm going to have to disagree.
First, let me say that, given the opportunity, I'd be over there too. I know the conditions are miserable, but the opportunity to report on a war first-hand, living with the troops, is something I couldn't say no to. Of course, I'm single, and Kelly was married with two young children.
The Union-Tribune published Kelly's final column on Sunday. If you compare it to the typical beat reporter's work, you'll see a difference. A difference not only in the writing, but in the depth of the reporting. The one thing too many reporters often fail to do is provide a picture of what is going on -- they depend on the photographers -- and their work suffers.
From Kelly's column:
Near the crest of the bridge across the Euphrates River that Task Force 3-69 Armor of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division seized Wednesday afternoon was a body, which lay twisted from its fall.
He had been an old man, judging from his blood-matted gray hair, and he was poor and not a regular soldier, judging from his clothes. He was lying on his back, not far from one of several burning skeletons of the small trucks that Saddam Hussein's willing and unwilling irregulars employed. The tanks and Bradleys and Humvees and bulldozers and rocket launchers, and all the rest of the massive stuff that makes up the American Army on the march, rumbled past him, pushing on.
Michael Kelly will be missed. He was doing what he loved and American journalism is the better for it.