Kelly’s Death Mourned by His Syndicate

By: Dave Astor

When the head of the Washington Post Writers Group syndicate last spoke with Michael Kelly on Wednesday, he told him: “Mike, be careful.” Kelly replied: “I’m fine.”

He wasn’t for long. It was reported today that The Washington Post/WPWG columnist was killed in a Humvee accident while embedded with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. Kelly, 46, was the first American journalist to die in the war.

“We’re all devastated,” said Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of WPWG. “It’s just tragic.” But he added that Kelly died doing what he wanted to do: “He was really excited to be covering that big story.”

Kelly’s mother, “Family Almanac” writer Marguerite Kelly, is also a syndicated columnist. His father, Thomas Kelly, was a reporter for the now-defunct Washington Daily News.

Kelly, a conservative commentator who was also editor at large of The Atlantic Monthly, dictated his Iraq columns to Shearer and WPWG Managing Editor James Hill by satellite phone. His last column, on the U.S. war plan as viewed from the front, was dictated Wednesday minutes after the 3rd Infantry Division crossed the Euphrates River.

“Mike was a writer with very strong opinions who brought in a lot of reaction,” said Shearer. “And he took chances with phrasing. Many of his sentences didn’t have the usual structure.”

Shearer added that he personally liked Kelly, who also covered the first Gulf War. “Mike was someone really fun to have a discussion with,” he said. “His mind was so quizzical.”

Since Kelly began writing from the war zone, his column’s client list had risen from 70 to nearly 80 newspapers.

See E&P‘s complete coverage of Iraq and the Press.

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