BY BOB JONES – I’d like to say a large handful of words about my wife and best friend, Denby Fawcett, who is retiring New Year’s Day from her career in journalism. She spent nearly a quarter-century as a reporter at KITV News, had an earlier career on the old “women’s pages” at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and after that, was a combat news correspondent in Vietnam for a multi-year spell with The Honolulu Advertiser.
She’s the shining example of a good, exceptionally good, journalist. She really works at it. Bulldog tough when she gets on a story. Great storage of cellphone numbers of everybody she encounters. Faultless writer. And fair. Really fair. She has some biases, as we all do, but they never show in her reports. I know people who tell me they know how she feels about certain issues. Most often, they’re wrong. That’s the mark of a superlative reporter.
She should be teaching the incoming generation of journalists, but if you’re not full-time university faculty you just don’t get paid enough to make it worthwhile for all the time you have to put in to do it right for your students.
She’s a learner. She graduated from Columbia but many years ago she went back to the University of Hawaii, did a master’s in anthropology and all-but-dissertation Ph.D. work in that same discipline. People used to ask her “if you’re not going to teach anthropology, why are you going through all that?” Denby always replied that it’s about learning, not what you’re going to do with the learning.
She accompanied me on one of my NBC News tours in Vietnam and our daughter Brett was born there, in the Vietnamese Grall (now the Women & Children’s) Hospital in Saigon. Denby and Brett rode home in a cyclo! We moved to a very small island in Greece, where Denby breast fed Brett while I went around scrounging food from fishing boats and a small store with mostly canned goods.
In 2004, she joined some female journalists in writing the Random House book War Torn, about women’s experiences covering the Vietnam War. Hers had been lots of combat and a bad case of falciparum malaria, the most dangerous kind where red blood cells infected with the parasite turn to sludge and form micro-infarctions. She’s lucky to have survived it.
But mainly, she’s a nice person. If you know her, you know that. Dogged as a reporter but infectiously nice and even tempered. I should add kind. She has never done a celebration over having nailed somebody who did something wrong. It’s not her style.
Best reporter I’ve ever known. Helluva lot better than me (or is it “I”) in my prime.