You never know when sadness comes

This is not a local story really, though the man I’m writing about visited Allegheny College just a few months ago. Tired and a little bewildered perhaps from his work days(hours actually) earlier in the South Sudan, he showed up to give to us insights into the world and the profession of photojournalism. At a journalism conference at a small school in Northwest Pennsylvania with a connection to a professor, NPR’s David Gilkey delivered an extremely inspiring and poignant look at the world and the importance of journalism’s role…. ethical journalism’s role in it.

Gilkey warned students about going into the profession of global conflict photojournalism. He knew it wasn’t only hard, but extremely dangerous. Earlier today David Gilkey’s life was taken in a Taliban attack on an Afghan army patrol where he was in doing what he does…. documenting the world’s horrors up-close so we can better understand the horrible things humans do to each other and the planet.


You can read about it here

I cannot claim him as a friend, we talked a bit in March and I was to send him a Meadville Tribune hat that I had from my days at that paper, but we only just met and I was awed by his work and words he spoke in a very slow, very tired voice at the conference. He literally landed back in the United States and was in Meadville the next day. His understanding of the cruelty of man was amazing. His inability to understand the cruelties of man were humbling.

Listen to him speak in this NPR post and understand how this man used his eyes to put his heart out on the table for us, and the heart of many of his subjects. 


My friend Cheryl Hatch was very close with Gilkey and that is how he came to Allegheny to speak. I wish I had a transcript of his words to share because it was a brilliant presentation and Q and A afterwards. The people who were in attendance got a glimpse into a world of journalism few can fathom.

Today is a sad day for the truth.

One of the things Gilkey said that stood out to me about the state of journalism today is that the organization he works for, NPR, has the principle of ‘get it right first’ and not just ‘get it first.’ This is something that needs to be plastered on bulletin boards and editors foreheads world wide in this age of get it out fast—-we DO need to be sure we get it right. Our audience and the public should demand that of us. We are hungry to know, but we need to be hungry to be accurate too.

We not only lost a talented photojournalist today, we lost a humanitarian with immense fortitude to push himself, despite the dangers, to deliver us to a knowledge most of us are afraid to even know. But we need to know if we’re to ever rid the world of the ridiculous ills that plague us.


This was my favorite photograph of Gilkey speaking at Allegheny College in March 2016. To me his staring into those eyes of his subject seemed to have such empathy that it felt to me like the best portrait I could’ve made of him.

RIP David Gilkey