For The Love of Journalism: The Story of Fallen NPR Photographer David Gilkey


An inspirational and heartbreaking story of David Gilkey, award-winning photojournalist, who sacrificed his life in the name of journalism. David was killed on June 5, 2016, while on assignment with NPR in Afghanistan.

One of his closest friends, Rick McCartney, is here today to share his story.

Rick describes David as “a truly authentic man. He was who he said he was. When he went into these war zones to take pictures, he did it with the idea that he needed to show the world what was happening”.

Long before high school, David proved himself as having an eye for shooting a story.
The friends then went on to Oregon State together, not knowing if they were even ready for college. After one year they parted ways but maintained their friendship. David went to Boulder and then to Detroit working for well-known publications, the Daily Camera and the Detroit Free Press. With that experience, he landed a job in Washington DC with National Public Radio.

David Gilkey was one of the first photojournalists after 9/11, on the ground, covering the war, telling the story.

Tragically, on June 5, 2016, assassins were allegedly tipped off. The Humvee he was riding in while embedded with the Afghan army was bombed. Rick first found out about his friend’s death when he saw a strange photo of David on Facebook. Both David Gilkey and his translator were killed in the attack.

For Rick, this was the first sudden death of someone close to him. He remembers David’s visit just a month before and how extremely happy he was at the time.

For the memorial service, Rick was asked to write a speech. While still upset and hurt with the loss of his friend. Rick said he found comfort through David’s mother, who got up and spoke. She let everyone know that her son had died doing what he truly loved. He was always out for adventure. He was always going to go in harm’s way.

David Gilkey, award-winning journalist, never wanted it to be about him.

After his death, Rick discovered more about his friend’s incredible career and just how many awards he had won, but never spoke about. Not even his Edward R Murrell Award for Photojournalism, his Robert F Kennedy Award or his Emmy.

Rick says David’s story is important and he deserves to be remembered. But other men and women continue doing incredible journalism all over the world and they are still under attack while trying to tell the story. They are still in harm’s way.

David’s legacy is about ensuring safety and security protocols for all journalists.

To honor his friend, Rick is now an advocate. He explains that since David’s death, he has researched the safety and security of our journalists. According to Rick, even in war, journalists now must depend on other outside security personnel, no longer our armed forces, for their safety. Rick believes journalists should be sent on assignment only when they know the full truth about their safety, through intelligence reporting, and only with security measures in place. Recently, Rick was asked to go to Washington DC by the French Consulate, on behalf of Reporters Without Borders, to show David’s work, and to speak about reporter’s safety and security.

How would Rick like us to remember his childhood friend, David Gilkey?

“Personally”, Rick says, “as an incredible friend, and for the public, as a very talented photojournalist who wants to tell the story – authentically”.

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