Colvin showed enthusiasm for overseas coverage early, editor recalls
Marie Colvin, shown here in a handout photo from British newspaper the Sunday Times, was killed in Syria on Wednesday.
February 22nd, 2012
09:09 PM ET

Colvin showed enthusiasm for overseas coverage early, editor recalls

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."

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Ringo

    Hey,take a deep breath Debby,and chill!You're hating on the wrong group here;fold up your blanket and put it away for now,O.K.? As to Ms.Colvin:I first saw her on a Cnn broadcast reporting on some story a few weeks back(I don't recall what it was about),and what caught my attention was that eyepatch!!I had never seen any woman wearing one before,and I was awestruck to say the least;it was,simply put,the epitome of cool.I was not surprised she died as she did,and for those of you denigrated her and her fellow journalists who've lost their lives for speaking truth to power I say:Shame on You!Shame!If any of you had one of the stones these awesomely courageous people had...Well.My hat's off to them,and my deepest condolences go to their loved ones.I grieve with you journalists everywhere at the loss of your colleauges-Salud!!!

    February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • GeorgeBos95

      While I may feel for Colvin's family, the simple fact is she didn't belong there. Her choice to stay and cover the hostilities up close.

      As for her deserving thanks from the rest of us, that's simply romantic nonsense. There's a point beyond which staying and reporting is simply suicide. She's being held up as a noble journalisitic saint, and that simply isn't so.

      And no, before the knee-jerk responses pile up ... I'm not attacking Colvin, I'm simply not buying into the rhetoric supporting a bad decision.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Moya

      Some people on here need not only a brain but also a heart. Some of the comments are nonsensical and extremely insensitive. She absolutely is a hero for trying to get the truth out, despite all the risks. What’s happening in Syria is a human tragedy unfolding, children are being massacred, toddlers are starving, no water no medicine, no food just rockets raining down on the innocent, people equipped with brains and hearts need to know so they can act!

      February 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Certainly this is a tragedy, as all incidents of this kind are. However, the question I have is in regards journalistic practice in general. Yes, these people were in a dangerous area without nominally government knowledge ( ie: they entered as under the patronage of the rebels/FSA ). This to present the other/underdog side of what was going on. Why then did we not see similar resolve in the Iraq war – the siege of Fallujah would have been a comparable example ( no journalist sneaked in there during the siege ). Yet the journalist tended to remain firmly, and relatively safely, embedded within the western forces. Similarly, I understand the shock and dismay now, but why is this case so much more important than the cases of the journalists who in the early days of the Iraq war ( and were not embedded with our forces ) were killed by our fire – I can recall several cases, one even involving a 'precision' hit on the Al Jazeera offices in Iraq.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gone with a trace

    Hard to think/read about this person without the age old cliche that comes to mind: "Died doing something she loved\and loved in the most passionate sense." If only I could be so lucky . RIP- you did your job.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • unknown

      Well said. Everyone who is giving Colvin a difficult time for putting herself in danger should think of this one point. You people writing negative comments are ignorant if you can not comprehend putting your life on the line for something you are passionate about.

      Why are you even wasting your time putting down a women who wanted to risk her life so the world could hear of the horrid stories that other humans are currently experiencing. If you were a citizen of Syria, you would worship journalists from within Syria and other countries who would risk anything to make the atrocities with in your country known.

      February 24, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Primus

    So the media is giving this reporter what I call "The Full Whitney". And why? Because she's one of their own, and they want the same treatment when they kick the bucket. Like a famous old baseball manager once said, "You have to go to people's funerals, cuz if you don't they won't go to yours."

    February 23, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jane

      primus i think you miss the point entirely – this is a reporter who was trying to bring attention to the fact that the Syrian goverment is killing their own people. this is a person who was dedicated to telling stories of people whose voices are often unheard. do not belittle this by any association with the mass media associated with whitney houston who was an entertainer who died as a result of addiciton. Marie was a reporter who was killed in the line of duty – like a soldier...
      killed by the Syrian government. perhaps you should rethink your glib comment...at least i hope you do.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Primus

      hi jane... deriding my comment with your "glib" tag is rather pointless, especially when you compare the reporter to our soldiers who risk their lives for causes at least as worthy with no motivation of fame and spotlight, and whose deaths receive little more than a digit and maybe a photo glimpse on the news. I agree Houston's death did not deserve the treatment it got from the big dog in news programming, because turning up the idol volume on any druggie simply creates more druggies. But no, the reporter you so stridently defend does not need your defense, but also does not deserve any more mention than the average GI Joe or Jane who dies in combat. Please, think.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. dreamer96

    Sorry for your loss...I liked the eye patch too...gutsy lady...but from what I've seen, these reports are not taking their own safety into their thinking...they are acting in many unsafe ways..just asking to be attacked by Al-Assad's troops that want to stop the internet broadcasts..

    This is a war zone, act that way...look at how the reporters have done it in the past...

    First of all shells don't always land were you think they will..they can hit near the original target or off..because of bad aiming by the gunners..

    If the journalist are being targeted...They should kept their location a secret..and never show a video out of their windows or near their building and never say anything that tells or hints at where their base home is...it does not take a genius to identify the buildings across street, or understand that the troops are watching where the shells hit, they may even be watch the live video of yours when they fire..(The Pentagon was watch CNN live as they attack Baghdad in Iraq in 1991, and watch the cruise missiles hit their targets live)..and if you show a video of an explosion,...their people can figure out where you are...

    and snipers also just watch...and can see the people going to and from that homes.. the they should be underground and in a different builds from their cameras...use underground tunnels or many different ways in...or knock out walls and go between homes..if you are using a home land internet connection...run a cable to another building as far away as possible...so that they don't know which building you are in...

    If you need connections to the internet...you are giving away your internet address to the network operators that are most likely controlled by the government...they can see the number of computers on each home network..the homes using a lot of internet traffic...so it is not hard to see...please they are not stupid...use laptops that have "Authorized User" as the owners name...so much of the browser information can be accessed from the net..ping a location, a computer...are they using a firewall..they could have infected all your laptops and be watching every key stroke and reading your reports while you are writing them...don't write them on line...

    move around setup safe locations and only access in short bursts...of sending and receiving...or use a direct satellite connection not the line line networks run by the Syrian government cable company...

    February 23, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jane

      dreamer i wonder if you are really knowing what you speak of. are you in syria covering news? or on a sofa someplace being armchair quarterback. whats happening in syria is serious f*ng business and there are dedicated professionals who know how to do their jobs - and are targets of the syrian government

      February 23, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      Jane

      I see the news reports from the so called safe house showing the reporters using the house internet wall plugs and then showing video out a window as they are talking...That showes someone has dropped the ball on security and safety of those reporters...It does not matter where I am..anyone looking at that video that has every been involved security, or worked in security, or a secure building, would be just as shocked as me...

      March 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. JosieB

    So i guess GeorgeBos95 is suggesting that when the going gets tough, we should bail out and save ourselves? I guess we know not to put our lives in your hands.....Marie Colvin was a REAL journalist, not a pretty face at a desk in a safe cozy office in New York. Her mission was to find the truth and report it, despite the cost. That's what REAL journalists do. When a journalist decides to save his own life rather than finish the job he went to do, he is not doing his job or doing the rest of the world a service. Marie Colvin was dedicated to a life as a journalist, live or die, as evidenced by her entire career. To have fled the country when things were looking dodgy for her would have been a betrayal of herself and her personal mission. She had far more guts and character than most of us and I admire her for a life well-lived. My heart goes out to journalists who lose their lives in the name of truth and justice. We should all be so lucky.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. high hopes

    She was scheduled to leave but wanted to do one more report. In fact, she did that report the night before to soften our hearts by sharing the story of a man and his son who were blasted with shrapnel. The child died of a chest wound. Little did she know that it would take her own murder to show us the intense horror under which the Syrian people of Homs are living. It took the brave acts of the people she had come to love, the Activists, to save the lives of her comrades to a medical facility... risking their own lives to retrieve the dead from the street, drenched in blood. I hope, with all my heart, she and those before her, have not fought the good fight in vain.

    ~Bless

    February 23, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. high hopes

    Edit:

    The Activists to save the lives of her comrades by taking them to a medical facility.

    They were not taken to a state-ran facility preserved for Assad's army of madmen in fear of being arrested, detained or worse

    God bless and keep them and all the ones before them who have risks their lives that others might live a better one. My condolences to Miss Colvin's family and friends. She will be missed by millions.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Pete

    Yaaaarrrrr, tis a sad story indeed!

    February 23, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. WOW!

    She looks like a James Bond villain! RIP

    February 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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