Remembering Rebecca Lipkin

Jul 222009

Knight Fellow Rebecca Lipkin died July 19 after a long struggle with breast cancer. She was a model Knight Fellow and an outstanding journalist. ICFJ is proud to announce the establishment of a memorial fund in Rebecca's honor. With the blessing of Rebecca's family, this fund will be used to provide training and resources for television journalists in countries where broadcast media are still learning how to best inform their citizens.

With great sadness we learned Monday that Knight Fellow Rebecca Lipkin (Eastern Europe, 1999) died over the weekend of breast cancer. Rebecca was just 48 and had been fighting the disease for the past two years.

She was absolutely a model Knight Fellow – so committed to the work of improving journalism in countries where people had never before been able to get independent information about their governments and societies. She continued that role after her Fellowship, becoming a mentor to scores of young journalists she met through her work at ABC News and Al Jazeera. She was working for Al Jazeera in London when she died.>

Rebecca and I were in the same orientation class in 1999 before beginning our Knight Fellowships. We became fast friends right away – she was one of the funniest, wittiest people I’ve ever known. I remember her account from Eastern Europe of one TV station (not one where she worked, I believe) that pioneered the stripping weathercasters. While telling viewers what weather to expect, the weathercaster would adjust his or her own clothes to suit the temperature, stripping down to next to nothing on hot days. The way she told the story had us all screaming with laughter.

More seriously, Rebecca worked so hard to teach journalists the broadcast skills they needed to become reliable and compelling sources of information in countries still shedding their authoritarian ways. She successfully nominated one of the journalists she worked with, Adam Komers, for the Knight International Journalism Award. He had been one of the leaders of a journalists’ strike at Czech Public Television in Prague that led to the sacking of the station’s director and the passage of a law that would prevent political appointments to the post in the future.

Rebecca was generous in so many ways. She put me up in her flat when I visited London, and she was always eager to help with ideas and connections when ICFJ needed them. Her death at such a young age has left hundreds of people around the world in grief and shock. You can read dozens of tributes to her at a web site set up in her honor: http://www.friendsofrebecca.com/blog/blog4.php. If you knew her, please add your own.

All of us in the Knight International and ICFJ families will miss her terribly.

-- Patrick Butler, ICFJ Vice President, Programs