NNA winner at ’09 gala in Montreal dies in Afghanistan blast

Michelle Lang

Michelle Lang, the proud winner of a National Newspaper Award at the NNA gala in Montreal in May, died in a roadside IED blast, along with four Canadian armed forces personnel, on Dec. 30, 2009. She was the first Canadian journalist to be killed in the Afghanistan war. Photo by Ted Jacob / Calgary Herald

Lang, 34, was the 2008 winner for Beat Reporting.

Her citation in the NNA program read: “As the Calgary Herald’s health reporter, Michelle Lang routinely broke stories last year on national and provincial health care issues. Two of them dealt with Canada’s desperate hunt for doctors. She brought readers into the lives of the foreign medical professionals who are staffing Canadian hospitals and the bidding wars for their services. In another, she analyzed the ethics of recruiting, or poaching, physicians from the developing world, notably South Africa. That country’s beleaguered health system has been grappling with the highest number of HIV-AIDS cases in the world.”

“On behalf of the Board of Governors of the NNAs, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to Michelle’s family, her fiancé and her extended journalistic family at the Calgary Herald and throughout the country,” said Scott White, chair of the NNA Board of Governors. “This is a tragedy we feared might happen someday but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Our journalists in wartime regions are brave and committed souls.”

The Calgary Herald’s website (www.calgaryherald.com) has a great deal more, including a guest book which attracted hundreds of messages of condolences in the first 24 hours of the announcement of her death.

“It’s a devastating day. I’m totally heartbroken. I feel for her family, her fiance, her friends and I feel for the newsroom,” said Herald editor-in-chief Lorne Motley after learning of Michelle’s death.

“It creates this hole, not only for the Herald, obviously, but also for Canwest and any other news organization because we’re a pretty tight-knit group as journalists. We’re family and when we lose one of our own, that’s difficult for all of us to accept.”