Bryan Monroe, 55, died in Bethesda, Maryland, on January 13 after suffering a heart attack. Monroe — who, over his career, held posts at NABJ, CNNPolitics.com, Knight Ridder Newspapers, and elsewhere — is remembered by Niemans who knew him during his 2003 Nieman fellowship year and after.
Ann Simmons, NF ’03
Bryan was a giant of our industry, larger than life in so many good ways. He was kind, generous and passionate about giving back to aspiring journalists and to his community. His hearty laugh always filled the room.
At Lippman House, he was the go-to guy in our class for everything technical — from figuring out computer glitches to learning how to scan and upload photos for a Sounding, technology that was new to many of us back then.
He was a supporter and mentor, always willing to share career advice, help with networking and even write job references. But most of all, he was friend and he will truly be missed.
Ernie Suggs, NF ’09
When I was elected vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2005, I knew that I had big shoes to fill — those of Bryan Monroe.
For the previous two years, as a member of the board, I witnessed the professionalism and character that Bryan displayed as the organization’s vice president, and I was honored to now sit beside him during his presidency.
I remember vividly our first board meeting after we had been elected. Bryan appointed me editor of the NABJ Journal, the organization’s membership magazine, that had not been doing well over the past few years.
In announcing my position, he mentioned how great I was and how he knew I was going to do a good job — how he had faith in me. After I was confirmed, we sat back down to continue the meeting. Smiling, Bryan leaned over and whispered to me in no uncertain terms that I better not mess up.
It was one of those moments when I didn’t know if the dude was joking or serious, which made it even more scary. Especially when he smiled again and resumed the meeting.
But I got the message. Everything that I did had to be exemplary, because I was representing myself, the organization and him. And I knew he always had my back. When I was applying for the Nieman, it was Bryan who read and ripped apart my essays until they were perfect. And he was the first person I called when I was accepted and could call him not only an NABJ brother, but a Nieman brother as well.
On the night of his passing, all of the members who served on Bryan’s NABJ board gathered on Zoom to catch up, cry and tell stories. I told the NABJ Journal story and added that after his two-year term was up, he whispered to me again, “Good job for resurrecting the Journal.”
I told him I didn’t have a choice, as I didn’t want to let him down. It was a pleasure to serve in his cabinet and it was an honor to have been mentored by him.
Callie Crossley, NF ’83
I’m having a hard time thinking of Bryan Monroe in the past tense because he’s been a steady presence in my life since he came to Cambridge as a Nieman Fellow. He always teased me that I was the reason he was a fellow, partly true since I was on his selection committee. But he wowed all the judges, as he wowed most of the people who got to work with him at Knight Ridder, CNN, Ebony and Jet.
We spent a lot of time together during his Nieman year. He had a big house (which I helped him find), and outside of Lippmann House, it was the gathering space for his classmates. That was also the year I tagged along when his class visited Cuba on an eye-opening trip.
We were pretty much bonded for life after Nieman. I enjoyed our ongoing conversations about journalism and about the racism embedded in our industry. I saw him socially during most years post-Nieman, most recently the last couple of summers on my beloved Martha’s Vineyard. At the annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists, we held down the bar for hours on end, trading war stories, sharing laughs, and indulging in quite a few adult beverages. (He always paid!)
I recently recommended him to newsrooms looking for a skilled facilitator able to help staffs navigate their own racial reckonings. And I had just wondered out loud why I hadn’t gotten his annual Christmas letter chock-full of son Jackson and daughter Seanna’s latest achievements. It arrived in my mailbox yesterday, hours after I learned of his death. I will miss him.