LAS VEGAS (AP) — Laura Myers, a veteran Associated Press reporter and editor who led the news cooperative’s coverage of foreign affairs as the country reeled from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and spent the past five years covering politics for Nevada’s largest newspaper, died Friday.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, where Myers had been the newspaper’s lead political reporter since 2010, reported that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. She was 53.
“Laura was ferociously interested in the world and in the stories people had to tell. She had left journalism to go to film school and luckily, I was able to talk her into coming back to help with coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP.
“She worked relentlessly with reporters and editors in the field, asking smart questions, stitching together bits of intelligence from reporters scattered around the world to frame interesting, intelligent stories. She made us better for a very long time and we were lucky to be her colleague.”
The Las Vegas native was the political editor for the AP during the 2000 presidential election.
“She was literally my right arm during the 2000 presidential campaign,” said Sandy Johnson, president of the National Press Foundation who was the wire service’s Washington bureau chief at the time. Johnson resisted declaring a victor when results appeared too narrow between former vice president Al Gore and eventual winner George W. Bush.
In a memo written that year as the lengthy vote recount was beginning, Johnson said the story was “in the hands of the best political editor possible.”
Later, Myers led the news agency’s foreign affairs, military, national security and intelligence coverage as the country reeled from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Myers was the first to arrive and last to leave and worked through Christmas leading coverage when a tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, Johnson said.
Myers began her journalism career in 1984 as a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal. She spent more than 17 years on and off with the AP starting in 1987 in the Reno bureau. She later worked in San Jose and San Francisco, helping with coverage of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, before Johnson tried to recruit her to the wire service’s Washington, D.C., bureau.
Instead, Myers took a few years off to work as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, the first of a few departures to do volunteer work.
In a hand-written note to an AP hiring manager sent from Kenya in 1995, she noted her travels.
“The air atop Mt. Kilimanjaro sure is thin, and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is something to behold!” she wrote.
When she wasn’t working for AP, she traveled the world learning new languages and helping build up communities. With the Peace Corps she learned French and taught villagers to farm fish. Several months after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, she said in her resume that she managed logistics at a refugee camp in what is now the Congo.
She spent nearly a year training journalists at Arabic and French-language newspapers in Algeria and built houses for Habitat for Humanity in Uganda and Mongolia. She traveled to China for a fellowship and studied filmmaking at New York University and acting at the Atlantic Theatre Company, volunteering for a theater company in Washington, D.C. by building sets and managing lighting.
“And this is all while being the hardest working journalist I’ve ever worked with,” Johnson said.
After leaving The Associated Press in 2008, Myers taught English in rural Egypt.
Johnson said she tried to coax Myers back to Washington, D.C., to a new journalism endeavor but the University of Nevada, Reno alumna opted to become the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s lead political reporter in 2010 when she covered the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Harry Reid and tea party favorite Sharron Angle and later the state’s caucuses in 2012 leading up to the presidential election and the 2014 midterms dominated by Republican victories in the state.
Johnson said Myers remained intensely interested in being first to break news.
“She was somebody whose courage and tenacity was like nothing I’ve seen in a journalist,” said Michael Hengel, executive editor of the Review-Journal.
The newspaper gave Myers its 2014 Editor’s Award for Excellence, and also recently nominated her as the Nevada Press Association Outstanding Journalist of 2015.
Myers last year followed up on student complaints about Hillary Clinton’s planned UNLV Foundation appearance “with an exclusive look at the financial details — including demands for significant pampering — in the speaker’s contract,” Hengel nomination letter to the press association reads.
“Laura’s article about Clinton’s contract continued to reverberate for months as national media followed with intense questioning of the Clinton family’s huge income from public appearances and financial arrangements involving their family foundation.”
Hengel said Myers was still working up until the last few weeks, drawing on reserves to report political stories for the paper.
According to the newspaper, she is survived by her mother Monte Myers of Sparks, sister Kathy Wiechers of Sparks, brothers Bill of Westchester, California and Mike of Lake Elsinore, California, and several nieces and nephews.