A Writer, and a Friend, of the Highest Class
July 16, 2012 11:57 PM   Subscribe

Journalist and critic AA Gill writes a moving, heartfelt and beautiful tribute to young colleague Amy Turner

Matt Rudd sat opposite her. “Amy was not just a brilliant writer; she was selfless. Those traits rarely combine. I feel completely bereft looking at her empty chair now.”
posted by chris88 (28 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! that ending hit me like a hammer.
posted by unliteral at 12:04 AM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Beautifully written, so sad. A perfect tribute. I've just forwarded this on to my sister who is a lecturer in journalism.
posted by taff at 12:08 AM on July 17, 2012

That is a lovely tribute.

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:10 AM on July 17, 2012

I'm not always the biggest fan of Gill but pieces like that remind me he's a decent scribe once you strip away the pomposity.

29. Jesus. She seemed to have such a promising future.
posted by mippy at 12:19 AM on July 17, 2012

A very moving tribute, lacking a lot of the verbal strutting Gill tends to go for.

I don't know Amy Turner, and thanks to the Times paywall I can't read the article Gill links to, but it is very sad. 29. Sheesh.

Gill, despite his reputation for misogyny and misanthropy, is actually a very fine writer. His book "Previous Convictions" is worth reading and his tv reviews, while an acquired taste, are the best in the business.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:29 AM on July 17, 2012

posted by Kinbote at 3:24 AM on July 17, 2012

god, I hate stories like this because I know what's coming from the beginning.

posted by yeoz at 3:49 AM on July 17, 2012

So basically Gill and everyone else exploited her ruthlessly, making her do menial jobs and give away her time and contacts for nothing (least of all job security)? Now they all say how great she was - except her writing was a bit characterless, you know, not big-personality fine-writing stuff like ours? Still she's good for a big feature now - still helping out! What a pity she isn't here for me to dictate it to!
posted by Segundus at 5:10 AM on July 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

The Times took down the paywall for this one.

And calm down about her being exploited, she turned an internship into an editorial assistantship, which involved some of what Gill admitted was dogsbody work that she would surpass soon. She built up her portfolio as a freelance on the side from that position.

That is how it works. This isn't chinese factory labour, if you want to get feature newspaper work this is how its done.

I think you are imaging condescension where there really isn't any, as well as "ruthless exploitation"
posted by C.A.S. at 5:16 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I guess it goes to show that maybe you never really know a person or their private pain. It does seem to be additionally shocking since she was so young and had such a promising career ahead of her.
posted by bquarters at 5:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hate to point this out, since this story clearly comes from the heart, but this breaks almost every guideline for reporting a suicide. This is almost a textbook case: glamourising the victim, followed by interviews with grieving friends and family, describing the death as inexplicable, and describing the method.

This really, really shouldn't have been published in this form online - I hope that the paper version at lease included some suicide-prevention info.
posted by Wylla at 5:36 AM on July 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

except her writing was a bit characterless, you know
that was meant as a compliment
posted by fightorflight at 5:44 AM on July 17, 2012

posted by hydropsyche at 5:52 AM on July 17, 2012

posted by flippant at 5:54 AM on July 17, 2012

posted by cjorgensen at 6:32 AM on July 17, 2012

--maybe you never really know a person or their private pain--

Aye. Wish I could remember this every day. I know this is a sad (and sweet) story but it reminds me that a smile doesn't cost much and it might make someone's day; you never know. And it works both ways too.
posted by peacay at 7:11 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

a smile doesn't cost much and it might make someone's day

Heartily agree with the sentiment, and smiling never hurts, but it's worth underscoring that smiling doesn't heal life-threatening mental illness-- detection and treatment do.
posted by threeants at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Now they all say how great she was - except her writing was a bit characterless, you know, not big-personality fine-writing stuff like ours?

Yes, that was intended as a sincere compliment. It's what you are taught to strive for in journalism school; not to editorialize, not to insert yourself into or get in the way of the story, not to add extraneous literary flourishes. It is not easy to do and it is not often appreciated as it should be.
posted by caryatid at 7:34 AM on July 17, 2012

Oh, that's sad. "Just before dawn:" that dark time when, if you get through it, you'll probably be OK for another day.
posted by BibiRose at 7:40 AM on July 17, 2012

So, somebody with great gifts and an unbelievably pleasant and giving personality turns out to have been effectively concealing their own emotional pain.

The lesson of Amy Turner's kindness to her colleagues seems clear to me: do not simply take it and marvel at the novelty, but strive to be as kind yourself. Maybe if there had been another one like her in that newsroom, she could have confided in them and been saved.
posted by Scram at 8:42 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A moving tribute, and an utter tragedy.
posted by Phire at 10:02 AM on July 17, 2012

I’ve been reading Amy’s articles, to find some quotes to put in here, but it’s almost impossible. There is so little extraneous colour. No flouncing or verbal gymnastics. She becomes invisible against the narrative, a stage manager, driving, organising and arranging the story, monitoring its pace, making sure nothing is left out and nothing unnecessary left in. There is barely a whisper of Amy in any of it.

Journalism is one of those professions where a key indicator of doing it really well is that almost nobody notices how good it is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unlike yeoz, I had no idea what was coming. Shit.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2012

What a lovely tribute- but also, to me, it seems like a sad and trenchant companion to the recent FPP on American students who consider suicide when confronted with their student loan debt. I find this section, in particular, chilling:

This has not been a good year to be a journalist. It has been a sombre one on this paper. Deaths and cuts and Leveson. Amy was occasionally worried that she would be made redundant, and then would whisper, “But I think I’m too cheap to fire.”

Gill was certainly trying to paint Turner in a flattering light, and she sounds like a dedicated and hardworking journalist, to be sure. But I wonder how much of her hard work- her willingness to write her first feature without pay, taking Gill's dictation, being generally indispensable around the office- was motivated, at least in part, by fear. And if she was struggling financially, or worried about her career prospects (I mean, print journalism- eek!), I would imagine that fear was a factor in her suicide. To me, it doesn't seem like a case of a warm, generous, seemingly-happy person inexplicably committing suicide, but more that even the most warm, generous, happily-dispositioned person can be really overwhelmed by their prospects in life and might, during a particularly bad moment or stretch, commit suicide.

None of that is too say that Turner's death should be used politically or that it is any less sad to hear of it. Just something that struck me, maybe because I'm a print journalist (for the next little while, anyway), and I know how much of a struggle it can be.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:58 PM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

If fond recollections and memorials are wrong what then for those who remain? We saw a star streaking through the heavens and she was gone. Shall we only talk of her passing in hushed tones? Will any remembrance aloud risk causing the heavens to fall?
posted by humanfont at 4:56 PM on July 17, 2012

Amy Turner and the Spider

posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on July 17, 2012

Amy was occasionally worried that she would be made redundant, and then would whisper, “But I think I’m too cheap to fire.”

Ach. I admit I couldn't help coming to this with a strong prejduice against AA Gill because of his previous irritating exploits as tasteless provocateur with an ego bigger than his talent, so I distrust the man's sincerity in writing from the start. Now, I'm willing to accept he is being sincere here and it may all come from the heart - after all, even the most irritating provocateurs have a heart.

But even with all the goodwill in the world... that line above stands out so so gratingly amid the rest of the 'she was such a nice person and such a great enthusiastic selfless super helpful young journalist' eulogy, and together with what comes next, the revelation of how she died [and oh that bit at the beginning too: I would get firm calls from our editor telling me to stop exploiting her, but Amy would insist, saying she didn’t mind, and enjoyed it; and I enjoyed it. I trusted her judgment.] well...

...I can't help but feel this is a very self-serving way of telling her story. Alas of course she's not here to tell it herself, but that "she'd have said"... that presumption of knowing exactly how she would have wanted her death to be written about, ugh. Even if this wasn't AA Gill, there's more than one thing about this piece that grates really, no matter how heartfelt.

(And I didn't know about the precise guidelines for reporting about suicides but the way he drops that bit of information at the end, just like that, felt instinctively inappropriate to me anyway.)

It made me more curious and makes me want to read more about Amy Turner, but written by someone else.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:08 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems that tiptoeing around suicide, and maintaining such strict rules around its reporting, are masking a huge problem. People are afraid to inadvertently give people ideas or glamourize the subject, but in doing so, many are not exposed to the degree of the problem. And perhaps people in danger can't see the risky position they are actually in when suicide ideation arises, because the epidemic is essentially covered up. The issue of economic vulnerability and its results matter, and if this article in some accidental way publicizes the situation (even if it wasn't necessarily part of her personal motivation, which we can't actually know), I think that is a good thing.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2012

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