Public tributes reflect sports journalist Jessica Ghawi's very public life

Deadspin | KENS | CNN

Sports journalist Jessica Ghawi was one of 12 victims who were murdered in a mass shooting Friday in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Through social and traditional media, Ghawi, who worked under the name Jessica Redfield, lived very much in public, something reflected in the tributes to the 24-year-old.

Barry Petchesky at Deadspin reveals the touching reason she worked under Redfield -- it was her grandmother's maiden name. "She always wanted to be a journalist, never had the chance," Ghawi said.

Petchesky collects memories of Ghawi from her former colleagues and lots of people who'd spent more time trading messages with her than seeing her in person. He quotes Dave Lozo of

In 2012, connections are made with people in such vastly different ways than as recent as 10 years ago. I don't remember the first time Jessica replied to one of my tweets, but she was always funny when she did. That's how I become aware of people that I follow, and it didn't take long for me to start following her.

By many accounts, Ghawi was someone who pursued connections fiercely, navigating the rungs of sports media methodically, following up any breaks her hustle afforded her with hard work and a personality that clicked with other sports reporters. For such a young journalist, her resume included an almost bewildering list of blog contributions and internships. Her friend Peter Burns, a radio personality in Denver, tweeted relentlessly about her Friday and talked about her during his show. On ABC, Kevin Dolak and Alyssa Newcomb say she'd recently taken a job covering hockey in Denver. It's not clear where, but Chris Bianchi at Mile High Sports wrote that she was due to interview there on Friday. She'd interned at KDVR in Denver, too, the station's Eli Stokols and Tammy Vigil wrote.

Before Ghawi moved to Denver, she interned at KABB-TV in San Antonio. This is her demo tape:

Ghawi's friend Natalie Tejeda talked about her on KENS in San Antonio:

A lot of the tributes to Ghawi touch on one of the more bizarre circumstances of her short life -- that she escaped a mass shooting in Toronto earlier this year, something she wrote about on her blog. Ghawi went public naturally, and Paul Doyle writes in the Harftord Courant about how her boyfriend, a hockey player named Jay Meloff who'd played in Danbury, Conn., displayed his grief on Twitter. There's a Facebook page for folks who want to remember her, as well as a hashtag.

Speaking with CNN's Don Lemon, Jessica's brother Jordan Ghawi talked about his frank blog post about his sister, which includes a harrowing eyewitness account of her death from the friend she went to the movie with. "I've always believed in full transparency," Jordan Ghawi told Lemon. Speaking of friends and family, Jordan Ghawi said, "It's better they find out through me than through anybody else."

But for all the public-ness of Ghawi's life, one of the most touching tributes came by way of her mother, Sandy Phillips, sharing a private text message exchange with Karina Medellin, a producer at WOAI in San Antonio. "I'm really excited for you to come visit," Ghawi wrote. "Need my mama."

"Need my baby girl!" Phillips replied. "Hang in there Jess...just keep trying and it will all be ok."

  • 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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