Armando Montaño remembered: 'He already was a journalist'

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Armando Montaño's parents are in Mexico City, the Denver Post reports, where the 22-year-old's mother, Diane Alters, tells the paper "The AP has been spectacular in helping us negotiate the Mexican bureaucracy." The AP intern, who was found dead this past weekend, continues to be honored with tributes:

• In the Des Moines Register, Sarah Purcell, a professor at Montaño's alma mater Grinnell College, described Montaño's "infectious enthusiasm" and marveled at his determination to make it in his chosen field:

“I’ve seen a lot of reports calling him an aspiring journalist,” Purcell said. “I think he already was a journalist.

• Another Grinnell prof, Eliza Willis, told WOI-TV's Jessica Daley that Montaño was "on the path to a very important career. I think he's someone who would have made a difference in journalism." Grinnell will host a memorial to Montaño next fall, Daley reports.
John de Dios remembers Montaño taking part in a dance-off at the end of a New York Times Student Journalism Institute in Tucson:

But that was Mando –– he danced through life, changing the lives of people whose paths he crossed. He was a kind and loving individual whose energy and enthusiasm were infectious.

• The National Association of Hispanic Journalists says it will pass on condolences to Montaño's family.

• In a press release, the National Press Club remembers a young man who "visited the Club regularly and participated in our annual 5K run" during an internship in Washington, "where he spoke to the crowd of several hundred about what the National Press Club scholarship meant to him and his dreams of being a journalist. He showed a phenomenal amount of enthusiasm and was excited to start his career."

• An editorial from the Boston Globe, where his mother worked, says Montaño made "a difference merely by his presence. His enthusiasm was, in itself, a rebuke to the thuggish cartels, which have sought to intimidate reporters into failing to cover the country’s drug-related corruption."

On that last point, Columbia Journalism Review's Sara Morrison says it's important to remember that there's no evidence yet Montaño's death had anything to do with his job:

Until we know what happened, one of the worst ways to memorialize the ambitious young journalist—who completed internships at The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Seattle Times, and The Colorado Independent before heading to Mexico—is to get his story wrong.

Washington Post social media producer T.J. Ortenzi told Morrison the paper pulled a tweet that said the death was a "slaying." The tweet also said the U.S. Embassy in Mexico was looking into Montaño's death because, “This is one of those things you don’t want to be wrong about.” According to the AP report of Montaño's death, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico is "monitoring the course" of the Mexican investigation.

On June 25, Montaño wrote about a shootout at the Mexico City airport between Mexican police and people who may have been posing as police.

In TIME magazine, Andrew Katz writes that it's unfair to call Montaño, and Marina Keegan before him, "aspiring" journalists. Both, he writes, had already "more than proven themselves":

Keegan, a longtime Yale Daily News columnist, had already landed a staff position with The New Yorker; and Montaño, who was an editor at Grinnell’s Scarlet & Black and had interned with The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times and Seattle Times, voluntarily threw himself into one of the world’s most dangerous reporting spots. ...

Despite daily reports of journalism’s woes, here were two 22-year olds who chose to try their luck anyway, and it paid off. They died too soon into their careers, but to label them “aspiring” now would be like not mentioning their work at all.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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