Editor's note: In this piece, CNN Senior Executive Producer Paul Varian looks back on the career of longtime reporter Marie Colvin, who was one of two Western journalists killed Wednesday while covering an uprising in Syria. Varian and Colvin were colleagues at United Press International before Colvin joined London's The Sunday Times.
After a week plus of the intense coverage afforded the nation’s latest tragic celebrity death, it’s a poignant time for those of us in the news media to pay homage to three of our own, lost in the killing zones of Syria.
The legacy left by Anthony Shadid of the New York Times, Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times of London and French photographer Remi Ochlik is one of unyielding dedication to getting the story – illustrated and in up-close detail – and getting it out to the rest of the world.
I first met Colvin when she was a pup, covering the New Jersey statehouse for United Press International, wholeheartedly in love with the news, eager to grow as a journalist and excited about her prospects for the future.
She soon moved to New York City, the police beat and the kinds of human interest stories unique to New York, but her ambition was more worldly.
She wanted to be a foreign correspondent and, as UPI's foreign editor, I helped her make the first step toward achieving that goal – a slot on the international desk when UPI shifted its world headquarters to Washington in 1983.
A bit on the Bohemian side even then, she took up residence on a houseboat in the Potomac and settled in for a stint on the graveyard shift where her closest brush with danger each night was her 3 a.m. run to an all-night next door coffee shop whose patrons included strippers, street hookers, their pimps and other unsavory sorts who populated what was then D.C.'s most notorious red light district.
She thrived on coffee, and that was the only place you could get it.
Within a matter of months, she was on her way to Paris – a plum assignment for a fledgling correspondent. A year later, like so many of the talented people UPI sent overseas on meager salaries, she was lured away by a big-time newspaper, in her case The Sunday Times of London, and the world’s hotspots became her beat.
She covered wars and conflicts of all stripes from Chechnya and the Balkans to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The last time I can recall talking with her was after she lost an eye to shrapnel on the front lines of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2001. In our conversation, she treated it like just another day at the office. She was more interested in talking about the Sri Lankan story.
"She was in love with the news," said longtime CNN anchor and correspondent Jim Clancy, who worked with her in Iraq, Beirut, the West Bank and Libya well before the demise of Moammar Gadhafi.
"That was her whole life. Nothing else mattered as much."