A Moving Tribute to Michel du Cille

A photo of a younger Michel du Cille is projected before an audience of about 500 at the memorial service for the photojournalist Friday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Newseum

500 Urged to Shine a Light, Like Michel du Cille

His photojournalist wife wanted friends and colleagues to know that "If he were here today, he'd be reminding us of the real story: 8,429 lives lost to Ebola and counting.

"He'd be saying, 'Remember the real story. Remember the thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the rest of the world who are dying and will die from this Ebola virus. . . . Remember the people in the rest of the world.' "

Advertisement

Friends, colleagues and admirers of Michel du Cille came to praise his professional excellence, his personal qualities and his commitment to shining lights in dark corners. He was an exemplar of old-school journalism values, and though most of the mourners were not African American, of a black journalist.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 500 people assembled at the Newseum in Washington Friday to pay tribute to du Cille, a Washington Post photojournalist and "three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his dramatic images of human struggle and triumph, and who recently chronicled the plight of Ebola patients and the people who cared for them." The Post described him in those words when he died at 58 on Dec. 11 of an apparent heart attack.

Advertisement

Du Cille was on assignment for the Post in Liberia, where he had gone voluntarily for the third time to document the effects of the Ebola crisis.

"He died doing what he loved," his wife, Post photographer Nikki Kahn, said from the Newseum stage.

Advertisement

Those who paid tribute enumerated the qualities that distinguish great journalists:

"He worked harder than anyone I've ever known," former Post colleague Mary Lou Foy, picture editor for several news departments, said. "He treated us with love and respect."

Advertisement

Donald Winslow, an Indiana University classmate who edits the magazine of the National Press Photographers Association, told of how du Cille, as a student, missed an appointment with a recruiter from the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., who was interviewing potential interns. Not one to lose such an opportunity, du Cille hopped in his car and drove to Louisville to find the recruiting editor, a two-hour trip. He won the internship.

At school, du Cille was the student who would shoot four rolls of film of "the guy going in a manhole," said Winslow, who presented him posthumously with NPPA's top Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award.

Advertisement

Hamil R. Harris, a Post local reporter, told Journal-isms afterward how du Cille, by then an honored professional, accompanied him on a reporting trip to a troubled Northeast Washington neighborhood. Du Cille spotted a mural featuring all the children in the city who had been killed during gun violence and wasn't ready to leave until the mural became part of the story.

"He was a poet with a camera," Winslow said.

"Michel liked people," Post writer Joel Achenbach, who worked with du Cille at the Miami Herald, told the audience. "This is not something you always associate with journalism."

Advertisement

On a visit to du Cille's native Jamaica to do a story on the late reggae star Peter Tosh, the two ventured into "an area where the police don't go," Achenbach recalled. The neighborhood boss demanded $500 from the fixer or else "our fixer would have been an ex-fixer." Du Cille managed to get the story anyway, and when the two returned to Miami, Achenbach found du Cille boxing up recording tape to send to the neighborhood boss, even though the assignment was completed.

"Let's like the people who share our stories with us," Achenbach said.

"He was not defined by awards on the walls, but by the mission of his work," said Carol Guzy, a photojournalist who in 1986 shared a Pulitzer with du Cille while both were at the Herald. As a photo editor at the Post, where the two also worked together, "he trusted a photographer's instincts, and what a gift that was."

Advertisement

As part of that mission, du Cille viewed it as a challenge to document the maimed victims of war in Sierra Leone, "people sentenced to a life without limbs," as Donald Graham, former CEO of the Washington Post Co. who now leads Graham Holdings Co., told the crowd. Du Cille's photos were part of a 2005 story that filled the Washington Post Magazine.

Du Cille was driven to shine a light in dark corners, as Kenny Irby, the officiant at the service, said. And so should we all, Irby continued. He had the audience repeat, "Accept the assignment."

Advertisement

The Rev. Irby preaches at the Historic Bethel AME Church in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is senior faculty, visual journalism and diversity and director of community relations at the Poynter Institute, the school for journalists in St. Petersburg.

Du Cille's mission and his passion were summarized by the slide show of his photographs that flashed at the end of the two-hour service. Many were of African people in remote areas — or their African American cousins — whose stories might never otherwise be told. "A white photographer wouldn't have taken those," a black journalist whispered as the images appeared.

Advertisement

His Pulitzers told other parts of the story.

The 1986 Pulitzer he shared with Guzy was "for their photographs of the devastation caused by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia." The 2008 Pulitzer for public service awarded to the Washington Post featured du Cille's photographs of wounded veterans mistreated at Walter Reed Hospital, "evoking a national outcry and producing reforms by federal officials," the Pulitzer board said.

Advertisement

His 1988 Pulitzer for feature photography, won while at the Herald, was "for photographs portraying the decay and subsequent rehabilitation of a housing project overrun by the drug crack."

"He was on assignment from God," Irby said.

Du Cille was a man of family values. "He cared what was going on in everybody's life," his friend Fred Sweets, a former Post photographer, told Journal-isms. 

Advertisement

Du Cille's stepmother, Winona Jones du Cille, told Journal-isms she wanted it known that "he came from someplace," a family that instilled those lauded values. His father, Frank O. du Cille, was a journalist. At the service, his daughter, Lesley Anne, rendered a violin tribute, and his son, Leighton, recalled road trips with his dad when they would sleep in tents, "just the two of us." A brother and cousin also spoke. He was an elder in his Presbyterian church.

Paul Farhi, who covered the service for the Post, told Journal-isms, "We all knew he was a great professional. This helped us understand what a fine human being he was."

Advertisement

In his own story on the service, Farhi noted that many were surprised to learn that "Michel," pronounced "Michael," was shorthand. Du Cille's full given name was Michelangelo Everard du Cille.

Farhi continued:

"And like the transcendent Renaissance sculptor and painter, du Cille, who died last month of a heart attack at age 58 while covering the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, was hailed as an artist who captured timeless images of human emotion and struggle in his way — through the lens of a camera.

Advertisement

" 'A great man, a great artist with a lovely soul,' said Donald Graham, former chief executive of The Washington Post Co. Graham, now chairman of Graham Holdings Co., quoted a tribute written by a student of the original Michelangelo: 'The great ruler of heaven looked down and, seeing these artists' attempts, resolved to send to Earth a genius. He further endowed him with true moral philosophy and a sweet, poetic spirit so the world would marvel.' . . ."

Hannington Dia, BlackAmericaWeb: Remember Ebola? It's Still Killing West Africans

Advertisement

Kenny Irby, Ben Mullin, Poynter Institute: Michel du Cille's last assignment

After "Tell Me More," Michel Martin in Demand as a Speaker

Last May, when NPR announced cancellation of "Tell Me More," the multicultural magazine show hosted by Michel Martin for its seven-year life, NPR executives said that Martin would have a greater voice in her next assignment and that her message and concerns would be carried "across the brand." She would also travel. 

Advertisement

Martin told Journal-isms by email Friday that she is "doing many many many events" and that she is "getting so many speaking requests I had to get someone else to field them."

Isabel Lara, NPR's spokeswoman, fills in the rest:

"She did a year-end recap of her events.

"She did a fabulous event in New York about Broadway in September, here's a recap.

Advertisement

"She also did a [Weekend Edition] story about that.

"She then had an event about Voting Rights in North Carolina in October and did some great stories from there, including this one.

Advertisement

"She didn't do any events in November because she was part of NPR's election coverage.

"This was a really powerful piece she did for Weekend Edition Sunday Dec 7. 

"In addition to her appearances on the magazine shows (you can see her stories and events if you go to this link, and hosting 'On Point' in Boston for a week (Dec 15-19), she has had a number of speaking engagements and her calendar for February is full.

Advertisement

"She has an event in Dallas on January 27th, information here:

"Then the next event is Miami in February (24th) for an evening of storytelling around immigration:

"New Orleans is coming up in April about education through the lens of community and identity."

Advertisement

Oakland Tribune Takes Oscar Diversity Issue to Next Level

"After the Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday morning, Twitter users tore apart the Academy for nominating only white actresses and actors for the nation's top film honors, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite," Catherine Thompson reported Friday for Talking Points Memo.

Advertisement

"But the Oakland Tribune took its criticism to the next level Friday. The newspaper's front page highlighted the startling lack of diversity among nominees in a year that saw 'Selma,' the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic that was nominated for a Best Picture award, get snubbed when it came to the acting (and directing) field.

"The Tribune ran headshots of all the acting nominees accompanied by the headline 'And the Oscar for best Caucasian goes to …. ' . . ."

Advertisement

In reporting on the Tribune headline Friday on his media blog, Jim Romenesko asked, "Who gets credit? 'The headline writer is either shy or modest but doesn' want to be singled out,' says features editor Lisa Wrenn.

"Reaction to it? Managing editor/content Bert Robinson says:

"I've gotten two voicemails about how terrible it was and one email about how great it was. The email said it was very gutsy and right on point. One of the voicemails accused us of fomenting a race war and the other one said 'caucasian' is as [pejorative] as the n-word. That last guy said he is Latino."

Advertisement

The lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations was front-page news in the Washington Post and the subject of a story on NPR's "Morning Edition," among other outlets.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds, a columnist who worked with Coretta Scott King on her unpublished memoirs, wrote that the "Selma" movie — a story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights that some are mistakenly calling a "biopic" — misconstrued Mrs. King.

Advertisement

"The beautiful Carmen Ejogo, who plays Coretta Scott King, is a proper representation of the human rights leader," Reynolds wrote for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. "But the filmmaker misconstrued the intimate relationship Mrs. King had with her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta was miscast as a woman tormented by fear, when in reality, she was a bold and courageous wife, mother and co-partner in the Civil Rights Movement. . . ." 

Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post: What went wrong with the Oscar hopes for 'Selma'?

Advertisement

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: David Duke denies being racist; George Wallace son says his daddy wasn't that bad

Jessica Dickerson, Huffington Post: #OscarsSoWhite Slams Academy Awards For Nominee Diversity Deficit

Advertisement

Josh Feldman, Mediaite: Spike Lee on Oscars Snubbing Selma: 'F*ck 'Em'

Arturo R. García, Racialicious: Did Paramount Cost Selma the Golden Globes?

Mark Harris, Grantland: Breaking Down the Oscar Nominations: What the Hell Happened to 'Selma'?

Advertisement

Julianne Malveaux, National Newspaper Publishers Association: The Education of Dr. King

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 'Selma' deserved better from academy

Kevin Powell, BKNation: WE HAVE A DREAM, TOO: If Women and Girls Ruled the World…

Advertisement

James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: Churches coming together to bring America together

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: MLK's prophetic call for economic justice

Alynda Wheat, People magazine: About Those Oscar Snubs: Are We Still in the Middle of Nowhere?

Advertisement

Rice Describes How Government Pressures Journalists

"White House officials favor two primary tactics when they want to kill a news article, Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, testified Thursday: They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong," Matt Apuzzo reported Thursday for the New York Times.

Advertisement

"Sitting across from a reporter and editor from The New York Times in early 2003, Ms. Rice said, she tried both.

"Testifying in the leak trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, Ms. Rice described how the White House successfully persuaded Times editors not to publish an article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. James Risen, a Times reporter, ultimately revealed the program in his 2006 book, 'State of War,' and said that the C.I.A. had botched the operation. Prosecutors used Ms. Rice's testimony to bolster their case that the leak to Mr. Risen had harmed national security. . . ."

Advertisement

Apuzzo also wrote, "Ms. Rice's account also threw a light on how the government pressures journalists to avoid publishing details about United States security affairs. It is a common practice that is seldom discussed. . . ."

Radio Television Digital News Association: DOJ guidelines welcome, law still needed

Advertisement

Journalists No Longer Need U.S. Permission to Visit Cuba

"Cuban Americans traveling to see family members, American officials on government trips, journalists on assignment on the island as well as every day citizen visiting for educational, cultural, religious reasons will no longer need permission first" under regulations issued in more detail on Thursday, Jim Acosta reported for CNN.

Advertisement

President Obama outlined a broad relaxation in restrictions on travel to Cuba last month. However, Juan Jacomino, press officer for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, told Journal-isms by email then that "journalists will still need a journalist visa to go and do work in Cuba."

Carlos Harrison, Poynter Institute: One reporter's journey to Cuba and how to get the story

Advertisement

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, the New Yorker: The News in Fidel and Raúl Castro's Home Town

Jennnifer Kay, Associated Press: U.S. Sees Spike In Flow Of Immigrants From The Caribbean (Jan. 5)

Advertisement

Carlos Lauria, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Normalization of U.S.-Cuba Relations Could Be Good for Free Expression

Susannah Nesmith, Columbia Journalism Review: Preparing for Fidel Castro's death

Advertisement

Ruben Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: For Tony Oliva and Ignacio Herrera, Cuba is personal (Dec. 20)

CNN Consulted With Muslim Employees on Charlie Hebdo

"CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker yesterday told a town-hall meeting of network staffers that he conferred with Muslim employees of the network regarding his controversial decisions following last Wednesday's terrorist attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine," Erik Wemple reported Friday for the Washington Post.

Advertisement

" 'I talked to employees in … hotspots. I reached out to Muslim employees. I reached out across the company,' says a source who attended the session, abridging Zucker’s message.

"Though it's unclear just what Zucker was told in those conversations, his decisions are quite public: CNN has stood among the most cautious of media organizations in its treatment of the edgy cartoons generated by the magazine; it showed neither the controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that appeared to have prompted the attack nor the post-attack cover drawing, which depicts the prophet crying and holding a sign saying 'Je Suis Charlie,' below a title, 'All Is Forgiven.' . . ."

Advertisement

Meanwhile, Jen Sorensen and Andy Dubbin of Fusion reported that "Huge numbers of Muslim cartoonists have joined the international chorus in support of free speech. We spoke with three to get their thoughts on Charlie Hebdo. While opinions varied on the cartoons themselves, all three defended freedom of expression and denounced violence. . . ."

BBC: Charlie Hebdo: Niger protesters set churches on fire

BBC: Charlie Hebdo attack: African newspapers apologise over cover

Dylan Byers, Politico: CNN's Christiane Amanpour questions Zucker over Charlie Hebdo decision

Advertisement

Editorial, Arab American News: The Paris Attacks Are an Insult to the Prophet Mohamad

Brian Flood, TVNewser: Al Jazeera America Posts Dismal Ratings During Big Week of International News

Advertisement

International Press Institute: In EU, calls to repeal blasphemy laws grow after Paris attacks

Shirin Jaafari, "The World," Public Radio International: You can't draw Muhammad — unless you're one of many Muslim artists who did

Advertisement

Ruth Michaelson, RFI: Egypt's President Al Sisi Moves to Ban Foreign Publications Seen As Offensive to Religion

Joe Pompeo, capitalnewyork.com: News Corp. steps up security in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack

Advertisement

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: We must protect our right to be offended

World Bulletin, Turkey: Turkish magazine gives the answer Charlie Hebdo deserves

Native Americans Most Likely to Be Shot by Police

"A recent Department of Justice report announced that as a percentage of the population, Natives are more likely than any other race to be shot by police," Christina Rose reported Tuesday for Indian Country Today Media Network.

Advertisement

"The Kanosh Band of Paiutes are calling for attention to the October 2012 shooting of Corey Kanosh, a 35-year-old Paiute man, who was shot by Millard County Deputy Dale Josse. Kanosh was the unarmed passenger in a car driven by his friend Dana Harnes, who is white. According to the Millard County Attorney's investigation, Josse chased Kanosh some distance in the dark before calling for backup. Attorney Todd McFarlane said that may have been a decision that led to Kanosh's death. . . ."

Allen Johnson, Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record: Cold hearts, unedited: Footage of shooting's aftermath is deeply disturbing

Advertisement

Sam Levine, HuffPost BlackVoices: Poll: New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Disapprove Of Cops Turning Backs On Bill de Blasio

Mike Males, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice: Who Are Police Killing? (Aug. 26)

Advertisement

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Cop shouldn't be charged in elderly man's death

Ruben Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: Pessimism aside, president's policing task force could do good

Advertisement

George Yancy and Judith Butler, New York Times: What’s Wrong With 'All Lives Matter'?

Is Outrage at Western Media on Boko Haram Misdirected?

Karen Attiah, the Washington Post's Opinions deputy digital editor, wrote Friday for the Post:

" 'Why did the world ignore Boko Haram’s Baga attacks?

" 'Terrorists killed 2,000 people in Nigeria. So why didn't the world care?

" 'Boko Haram may have just murdered 2,000 people — so why aren't we talking about it?' " 

Advertisement

"In the past few days or so, I've seen a deluge of headlines very similar to the above. As someone who is both a journalist and a person with direct roots on the African continent, I understand the sentiment behind the headlines. Western media have a long and torrid history of treating Africa as a diseased, dirty and violent place in stories about the continent.

"Let's be honest: Sometimes Western journalists manage the spectacular feat of erasing African people from stories about Africa. Remember when '60 Minutes' went to Liberia to report on Ebola efforts and failed to interview a single Liberian on camera? Its report was prime example of what journalist Howard French calls 'Africa without Africans.'

Advertisement

"So this is not to absolve any journalist in the West reporting or writing on the continent of their duty to tell balanced and accurate stories. That said, in the wake of the Baga massacre, my current anger isn't toward ABC or CNN. My frustration is directed squarely at Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

"We should all be infinitely more incensed by the Nigerian leadership's lack of political will to come up with a comprehensive solution to Boko Haram's murderous assault on Nigerian citizens than about whether a major U.S network has temporarily helicoptered its crew into the country. . . ."

Advertisement

'Tope Oriola, Premium Times, Nigeria: Why the Media Ignores Boko Haram's Atrocities

N.Y. Times Asks Help on Gordon Parks Mystery

"The image is striking: A stone-faced African-American woman in a spotless maid's uniform cradles a white toddler while a stylishly dressed white woman sits nearby. Gordon Parks took the picture at the Atlanta airport in the spring of 1956," James Estrin wrote Monday for the New York Times "Lens" blog.

Advertisement

Estrin also wrote, "We at Lens keep returning to this intriguing photo, which raises questions about race, class and relationships between women in the Jim Crow South. And every time we look at this rare color image, we want to know much more about these women.

"So we are turning to you, dear readers, to help unravel this mystery. We particularly ask those of you who like history and research, as well as those who are just plain nosy, to help us crowd-source the stories of the people in this photo. Let's use the comments section of this post to share what we find out and help each other in our joint search. You can also e-mail us at lensnytimes (at) gmail.com. . . ."

Advertisement

The Times had published 104 comments by Friday.

Eliza Berman, Time: A Lost Story of Segregated America From LIFE’s First Black Photographer

Advertisement

Short Takes

A Jan. 26 forum on race and the media at the National Press Club will also include Kenya Vaughn, web editor of stlamerican.com and arts editor for the St. Louis American, a member of the black press, Club president Myron Belkind told Journal-isms by email on Friday. Belkind said he added Gilbert Bailon, editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, after being contacted by Mekahlo Medina, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, who complained about the lack of Latino journalists on the panel.

Advertisement

"Byron Harmon is a first time news director working in the nation's number one market," Kevin Eck wrote Friday for TVSpy. "The news director for FOX owned WNYW sat down with TVSpy to talk about his news philosophy, which the station showed off recently during breaking news. While other stations were going wall-to-wall, WNYW broke in to regular programming for a one-minute (TVSpy timed it) update. 'How often do we have a house fire that really affects us?' said Harmon. . . ."

"The Oprah Winfrey Network is airing Light Girls, the sequel to Bill Duke's 2011 documentary, Dark Girls," according to Chris Witherspoon of theGrio.com. "Light Girls, also directed by Duke, premieres January 19th and will address the privileges and disadvantages of having lighter skin. . . ."

Advertisement

"Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson made the really big news on El Capitan Wednesday," Mark Joyella reported Thursday for TVNewser, referring to a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park. "The two Americans did what many had long thought impossible – free climbing their way up the Dawn Wall, 3,000 feet straight up, and known as the hardest rock climb in the world. But NBC's Miguel Almaguer earned some bragging rights as well. The network believes Almaguer, who reported live for Wednesday's 'Nightly News' from atop El Capitan, is the first person ever to broadcast live from the summit – and it was no easy liveshot to pull off. . . ."

"One of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. is the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park, a community that had been largely populated by working-class Hispanics until rapid rising property values began reshaping the demographic makeup of its 60,000 residents," Ben Mook reported Jan. 8 for Current.org. To produce a reporting series that explored how working-class families, artists and small-business owners are increasingly being displaced, reporters Krissy Clark and Noel King, and producers Lindsay Thomas and Caitlin Esch moved into a temporary news bureau on one of the neighborhood's major intersections, reporting from the community over a two-month period. The results were boiled down to a week's worth of stories for American Public Media's "Marketplace," which is based in Los Angeles, as well as the "BBC NewsHour," Mook wrote.

Advertisement

"One of Hollywood's most powerful black agents is making a new start," Natalie Jarvey reported Jan. 5 for the Hollywood Reporter. "Charles King is leaving William Morris Endeavor to form MACRO, a startup that will focus on developing content for multicultural audiences. With an unspecified 'eight figures' in funding, Los Angeles-based MACRO initially will focus on developing and distributing feature films, TV series and digital content targeting African-American, Latino and multicultural markets. . . ."

C-SPAN3, the American History Channel, is airing the 1964 film "Nine from Little Rock" at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday. The U.S. Information Agency film is "narrated by Jefferson Thomas, one of the nine African-American students who, in 1957, enrolled in Little Rock Arkansas' all-white Central High School. The governor prevented the students from attending classes until President Eisenhower sent 1,000 U.S. Army troops and federalized the 10,000 strong Arkansas National Guard to restore order and enforce school desegregation. In the film, Mr. Thomas and several other of the Little Rock Nine reflect on their experience, life beyond high school, and hopes for the future. The film won an academy award in 1965 for documentary short subject," according to C-SPAN.

Share This Story