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Elizabeth Neuffer, 46; Reporter for the Boston Globe

May 10, 2003|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

Elizabeth Neuffer, an award-winning correspondent for the Boston Globe who covered some of the most complex international stories of the last decade, has died. She was 46.

Neuffer died Thursday of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Iraq, the Globe reported. The car she was riding in apparently struck a guardrail near Samarra, about halfway between Baghdad and Tikrit. Her translator was also killed in the accident. The driver of the vehicle survived.

She had gone to Tikrit, the Globe said, to report on the country's continuing efforts to rid itself of the influence of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

"All of us in the Globe's newsroom are devastated by the news of Elizabeth's death," Globe editor Martin Baron said in a statement. "She was brilliant and courageous. Wherever there was news in the world, Elizabeth wanted to go."

Neuffer reported on the fall of the Soviet Union for the Globe as well as on ethnic strife in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda. She covered Kuwait during the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. When she wasn't overseas, she covered diplomatic activity at the United Nations.

Her book, "The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda," was published in 2001. The work earned generally positive notices. reviewer for Newsday called it "an extraordinary and deeply moving book about the search for reconciliation and justice in the aftermath of war, and about how people and nations drive away the ghosts of violence."

She was awarded the 1996 SAIS-Novartis Prize for Excellence in International Journalism for a 10-part series on the war crime investigations in Bosnia and Rwanda.

She was also honored in 1998 by the International Women's Media Foundation with the group's Courage in Journalism Award for her reporting from some of the world's most dangerous spots.

"She struck me as someone who was very brave but believed she was playing it safe," said Terry Gross, the host of the NPR program "Fresh Air," who interviewed Neuffer on international issues several times.

On one occasion with Gross, Neuffer recounted an incident in Bosnia when her car ran into a ditch on a rainy night in a muddy road.

"Unfortunately, the people we flagged down are extraordinarily drunken soldiers, and they proceed to sort of take the car battery, to, you know, sort of try to harass us. They surround my colleague with guns. One of them starts pawing me rather intensely. And it became pretty clear at a certain point that, you know, rape can be a real option. It was a rather nasty experience and kind of a horrible realization at the time," she told Gross.

She escaped by focusing the soldiers' attention on the car, which she believed they were more interested in anyway. Then she and her colleague slipped away and found refuge with a United Nations soldier in a tank.

"She was always clear, lively and engaging in her comments," Gross added.

Born in Quincy, Mass., and raised in Wilton, Conn., Neuffer earned a bachelor's degree in history from Cornell University and a master's degree in political philosophy from the London School of Economics. She spoke Russian, German and French.

She worked as deputy press secretary in Washington for Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), then freelanced for the New York Times and Time magazine before joining the Globe in 1998. At the Globe, before taking foreign assignments, she covered the federal courts and efforts by the Clinton administration to reform health coverage.

"Elizabeth was far more than an outstanding journalist. She wanted to make the world a better place," said Globe foreign editor James F. Smith.

"She wrote about the world's most vexing problems ... and she won many prizes along the way.... She wrote with grace and conviction and empathy. She was our friend too -- funny, caring, always worrying about her colleagues and their safety. We will miss her terribly."

She is survived by her longtime companion, Peter Canellos, the Globe's Washington bureau chief; and a brother, Mark Neuffer of Chicago.

Services are pending.

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