Journalists mourn Michelle Lang

A note pad and a pencil – tools of our trade – adorned journalist Michelle Lang’s casket on Friday on the Kandahar Airfield as it was carried to the aircraft to return to Canada.

The Calgary Herald reporter was killed Wednesday when a landmine mine exploded under the light armoured vehicle that she was riding in, along with four Canadian soldiers. 

Lang, 34, had arrived in Kandahar on December 11 for what was to have been a six-week tour of duty. She’s the first Canadian journalist to die in Afghanistan.

The Calgary Herald reports that Lang’s casket, also adorned with her photo and a black scarf, led the procession and the military has given Lang the same honours as the fallen soldiers.

Meanwhile, colleagues are mourning her death and assessing the risks of war reporting.

Herald columnist Don Braid called Lang (who won a National Newspaper Award last May for health reporting) “a quiet public treasure, a superb example of how the best journalists can be socially helpful without ever being destructive or mean-spirited.”

“Journalists need to put themselves at risk every day to report first-hand on important stories like Afghanistan. But that doesn’t make this any easier,” said Scott Anderson, editor-in-chief of Canwest News Service

Lang’s boss, Herald editor Lorne Motley, paid tribute to Lang in a New Year’s Eve interview on CTV and described how excited Michelle Lang was to be reporting in Afghanistan, and what she wanted to convey to Canadians while she was there.

Graeme Smith, who was the Globe and Mail’s main Afghan reporter for three years, reflects that you have to think about why you travel the battlefields of southern Afghanistan, and whether the task is worth the risk…(and) the dark hours of confronting fear.” 

His colleague, Timothy Appleby reports Friday that “the art of war reporting in Afghanistan has evolved into the art of compromise.”