Kim Wall: An ‘exceptional’ journalist remembered

Kim Wall's Facebook profile picture Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Kim Wall "never made a spectacle of the characters she reported on"

It is a "black irony" that Kim Wall - the journalist whose remains have been found off Denmark - should have met her end while working in such a familiar and seemingly safe area, say friends and family.

The 30-year-old freelance journalist had travelled the world in pursuit of her stories - from Uganda to Cuba to the Marshall Islands to Kenya to New York City.

At one point she even "slipped into" North Korea.

"Kim has worked as a journalist in many dangerous places, and we have often been worried about her," her family wrote in a letter to Danish TV while their daughter was still missing.

"That something could happen to her in Copenhagen, just a few kilometres from the childhood home, we could not imagine at all."

Ms Wall's "pint-sized" physical presence and personal humility were misleading - the redhead was a formidable person and a driven journalist, say those who knew her.

She was born in 1987 and grew up in a close-knit community in the small town of Trelleborg in southern Sweden, just across the strait dividing Denmark from Sweden.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionKim Wall's death: What we know so far

She studied international relations at London School of Economics and went on to gain a place on the rigorous masters programme of Columbia University's School of Journalism - described as the "Oxbridge of journalism".

Even within her cohort she was top of the class, winning honours in her year, her classmate and friend Anna Codrea-Rado told the BBC.

'Rock-solid reporting'

"What made her journalistic abilities so exceptional was that she looked for quirky stories but with a bigger narrative," she said.

"She reported them deeply - she never made a spectacle of the characters. Her reporting was rock-solid."

Her interest in people and stories made her a great party guest.

Image copyright Christopher Harress
Image caption "She was one of the few people that could lift a room just by being in it," Ms Wall's friend Christopher Harress (left) told the BBC

"She was very bubbly and warm, the kind of person who had fantastic stories about the things she was working on - you could jump straight past the small talk.

"She was intellectual, so well-travelled and had such varied interests. She was interested in quirky and eccentric stories. If you were at a party you'd end up passing hours just chatting to her."

This admiration has been echoed by numerous friends.

Ms Wall wrote "about subcultures, about a globalised world in rapid change", says Victoria Greve in Sweden's Expressen newspaper. "About life in a huge shopping centre in Kampala's Chinatown, about Cuba's underground internet providers who download and disseminate new episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians to people from all walks of life in Havana. We made a report together about the wealthy women in New York who voted for Donald Trump."

A taste of Kim Wall's work

But Ms Greve and others also highlight the effort and pluck needed to succeed at this genre of journalism in today's media.

"As news organizations grapple with shrinking budgets, they increasingly rely on freelancers, who cost less and are often willing to take on the attendant risks reporting in places they wouldn't send their staff to," writes Sruthi Gottipati in the Guardian.

"Even against this backdrop, the competition is fierce to place stories and female freelancers work hard to ensure their gender isn't calculated as a liability. So they clam up about the dangers they face and sometimes report before being commissioned to do so."

Image copyright Ritzau Foto
Image caption Mr Madsen and Ms Wall were photographed just before departing on 10 August

This pressure to secure good material before there is even a formal commission could explain why no news organisation has confirmed it gave Ms Wall the assignment she died carrying out.

Friends and family have urged the world not to let the nature of her death overshadow her life.

"Please don't remember her as the murdered Swedish journalist who died in a grisly horror straight out of a crime drama," Ms Codrea-Rado said on Twitter.

"Remember her work."

Related Topics

More on this story