When Swedish journalist Kim Wall went to interview an eccentric inventor in the summer of 2017, the story ended in tragedy. Three years later, Women in Journalism were honoured to welcome
Jochim and Ingrid Wall, parents of Kim, to our online event on 14 July to celebrate the life of a remarkable young woman, recorded by the Walls in their new book A Silenced Voice: The Life of Journalist Kim Wall , and discuss the steps we can take to keep female journalists working alone out
The event was chaired by Eleanor Mills , WIJ chair, joined by Ellie Austin of the Wall Street Journal, who had met the Walls when she interviewed them for the Sunday Times Magazine, and Susie Beever , senior crime reporter at the Yorkshire Post.
Eleanor began by asking Ingrid, a journalist herself, and Joachim, a photographer, to tell the audience more about the making of Kim, the journalist, who reported from all over the world as an international
correspondent. Her pieces appeared in publications including Harper’s, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, TIME, Slate, Vice and the Guardian. She was 30 when she died. “In a way it was inevitable, even though we told Kim and her younger brother Tom when they were going through school to become an accountant, become whatever, but don’t go into journalism. But of course Kim and Tom grew up with a lot of newspapers and news talk around the dinner table and so in a way we couldn’t avoid it,” said Ingrid.
Ingrid and Joachim told Eleanor that they feel that Kim’s death has made younger journalists more aware of the potential risks of the job, which they say is both a good and bad thing. “If that makes female journalists afraid to tell stories then those kinds of stories will never be told,” said Ingrid.
Eleanor added that she thinks the whole profession of journalism has become dangerous over the past 20 years: “The dangers to journalists all over the world are growing all the time based on political regimes, and there are so many different types of risks.”
Ingrid and Joachim have set up the Kim Wall Memorial Fund to help other women with Kim’s adventurous spirit chase down important, under reported stories. “It’s a must that part of the money should go towards good insurance,” said Ingrid. “You are not allowed to go out with a Kim Wall
Memorial Fund grant without having proper insurance. And it’s especially important for females”, she says. Ingrid and Joachim say the grant is very special to them. “Where Kim can’t go out and do stories, we are able to send out younger female journalists to do stories in her spirit,” Joachim explained.
The first grant was given out in 2018 and is awarded every year on March 23rd, Kims birthday, to two or three female journalists who apply with a special story outline. “Kim would love to have this undercurrent of rebellion, and we are looking for that kind of story,” says Ingrid. This year, Ingrid and
Joachim received applications from 110 journalists from 45 different countries around the world.
Ellie Austin then joined the discussion to ask Ingrid and Joachim if their own careers affected how they decided to engage with the media after Kim’s death. They replied that on the first day that they found out she was dead, they decided that they would not talk to anyone: “If anyone should talk about Kim and tell her story it was us. We had total control on what we could say.”
Susie Beever, senior crime reporter at the Yorkshire Post, spoke about the pressures of reporting and risking safety. When she was 23, Susie was door-knocking for a crime story in a town in south Yorkshire, when a man invited her into his house. He locked the door behind her and kept the key. “I remember feeling really unsafe, but I was under order from my news desk to get all the information I possibly could,” she said. Susie believes that journalists can be made to feel that their safety is not important and
rather the main focus is to get the story, but that there is a lot more awareness now of basic duties of looking after employees.
The discussion sparked chief foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times, Christina Lamb, to chime in on Twitter to say, “I think this is particularly hard for female correspondents where we feel we must be braver than the men.”
One audience member asked if there is enough protection for freelance journalists. Ingrid responded by saying, “Every grant is US $5,000, for us it’s important that if you are a female journalist you don’t choose to go to a bad place just because you can’t afford it.”
Joachim added that there is insurance that you can get for a limited time when you are traveling and it’s good protection for journalists. The discussion ended with Eleanor inviting Ingrid to become an
ambassador for Women in Journalism. The discussion was inspiring and uplifting for all that tuned in.
One user took to Twitter to say, “Thank you to Ingrid and Joachim Wall for sharing #KimWall’s story. Also thank you to Ellie Austin and Susie Beever in particular for sharing your experience as female journalists and the importance of feeling safe when reporting out in the world.”
Another said, “An inspiring WIJ UK webinar with the parents of Kim Wall about the importance of safety as a female journalist and keeping Kim’s legacy alive through the Kim Wall fund.”
WIJ is very grateful to Cision and FMcM Associates for their support for this