Monday, May 12, 2003

Elizabeth Neuffer's legacy. It's sad but predictable that an outrageous eruption of journalistic wrongdoing -- the apparent fabrications and plagiarism of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair -- has entirely overshadowed the death of Boston Globe reporter Elizabeth Neuffer.

But Neuffer is what this business is, or should be, all about. A tremendous reporter with an uncanny ability to drop into dangerous, chaotic places and make sense out of them for those of us back home, Neuffer and a Globe translator, Waleed Khalifa Hassan Al Dulaimi, were killed in a car accident in Iraq on Friday.

The Globe's Mark Feeney wrote a fine obituary that appeared in Saturday's paper. You'll also find links to her recent reports from Iraq.

Neuffer appeared on NPR's Fresh Air on December 3, February 3, and, most recently, March 20. You can listen to Terry Gross interview her by clicking here. Enter "Elizabeth Neuffer" in the "Find a guest" box.

Neuffer had a real sense of ordinary people's humanity. Her Globe reports from Rwanda and Bosnia, which she expanded on in her 2001 book, The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda, are perhaps her most lasting legacy. I haven't read the book, but I've long followed her newspaper work.

I had exactly one encounter with Neuffer -- brief and from afar. At one point during the endless Woburn toxic-waste lawsuit, which I covered as a staff reporter for the Woburn Daily Times Chronicle in the 1980s, plaintiffs' attorney Jan Schlichtmann held a news conference outside the federal district courthouse.

Nothing particularly striking to report -- just that I remembered her and remembered her name as she established a reputation for herself. She was a great journalist, and if there's any justice, she'll be remembered long after the likes of Jayson Blair are forgotten.

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