Julia Campbell was no stranger to adventurous exploits.
As a journalist in New York City, she was a tenacious reporter, at one point getting arrested covering the funeral procession of rapper Notorious B.I.G. She once cut short a date after coming across a crime scene so she could report on the story.
Her adventurous spirit later took her to the Philippines, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was there that her body was discovered Wednesday in a shallow grave, unearthed by a stray dog more than a week after she disappeared while hiking.
“She was a fearless reporter,” said David Kocieniewski, a New York Times reporter who was bureau chief when Campbell was a full-time freelancer for The Times at police headquarters. “She was intelligent, incredibly hardworking and had the capacity both to ask intellectually tough questions and to be sensitive to the people we were writing about.”
Journalists who worked with Campbell during the years she spent freelancing for The New York Times, Court TV and other news organizations remembered her generosity and courage.
Police in the Philippines at first thought the 40-year-old might have fallen off a cliff while hiking alone in Ifugao province north of Manila. But after her body was found in the grave, they said they believed foul play was involved.
“I’m absolutely jolted,” said Bill Hoffmann, a columnist for the New York Post’s Page Six gossip section who briefly dated Campbell. “I remember her as not having a mean bone in her body. She was a real sweetheart, and yet she was deceptive – she was very dogged and determined like a bulldog.”
Hoffmann said he and Campbell were on a date once when they happened upon a crime scene. A gunman was loose and police had blocked off a street. Campbell immediately called The Times newsroom and started working the story.
Michael Cooper, a Times reporter now based in Albany, N.Y., also described his former colleague as dogged.
“When doing street reporting, she was always sure to ring the 10th doorbell, not just leave after a few,” said Cooper, who worked with Campbell at police headquarters.
After The Times, Campbell worked for People magazine, Star magazine, Court TV and FoxNews.com.
“She loved being a reporter,” said Liz McNeil, East Coast news editor for People. “She was very dedicated and had a lot of compassion.”
Campbell made headlines in 1997 during her stint at The Times when she was arrested covering the funeral procession of Christopher Wallace, also known as Notorious B.I.G.
The procession turned unruly and Campbell got in a shouting match with police, who had her handcuffed and dragged away. According to the police report, Campbell called one officer “a bastard.”
The Times protested the arrest, though metro editor Michael Oreskes acknowledged that Campbell’s “use of harsh language was not appropriate.” Disorderly conduct charges were eventually dropped.
Campbell wrote in her blog that “At the age of 38, I decided to step out of the rat race of New York, join the Peace Corps and board a plane for Manila.”
In the Philippines, she taught at a public high school where she helped restock the library and begin an ecology awareness campaign. In October, she began teaching English at a small Catholic college in Legazpi city, southeast of Manila.
The next month, she weathered supertyphoon Durian, which killed more than 1,000 people as it slammed into Legazpi and sent tons of debris cascading down Mayon volcano.
“For a few minutes there, as the flood waters rushed inside my little apartment on Marquez Street, I wondered, ‘Is this the way it’s going to be?’ I’ll drown right here inside my tiny apartment far away from my family and friends?” she wrote in her blog.
At the time of her death, Campbell was weeks short of completing her two-year commitment to the Peace Corps.