Obituary: George Krimsky, foreign correspondent

Journalist and author George Krimsky, who covered Charles Manson's arrest, the Lebanese civil war and dissident activity in the Soviet Union and co-founded a centre for international journalists, has died aged 75.

George Krimsky, 1970s AP correspondent in Soviet Union, dies
George Krimsky, 1970s AP correspondent in Soviet Union, dies

Krimsky, who lived in Washington, died on Friday after a year-long battle with lung cancer. He had a career that spanned nearly five decades, much of that spent abroad or working in international affairs.

Krimsky grew up in New York, California and Connecticut, where he graduated in 1960 from The Gunnery prep school. After attending Middlebury College, he joined the Army in 1962. Following three years of military service, during which he studied Russian and lived in Germany, he returned home and took a job as a reporter for the Republican newspaper in Waterbury.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In 1969 he began working for The Associated Press agency in Los Angeles, where he covered Manson’s arrest after the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several other people; a deadly 1971 earthquake; and the slayings of at least 25 migrant farm workers, among the worst serial murder cases in US history. He later worked for the AP at its New York headquarters and then, in 1974, was posted to the Soviet Union as a correspondent. His Russian ancestry and command of the language gave him access to political dissidents including nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Krimsky held secret meetings with Josef Stalin’s grandson Josef Alliluyev, who pleaded with Krimsky to help him arrange a visit to the US to see his mother after she left him to seek her freedom in the West. In the end, Alliluyev’s defection never happened, and Krimsky was expelled from the Soviet Union after a false charge of espionage.

Keith Fuller, who became the AP’s president in 1976, denounced Krimsky’s expulsion. “From the facts before me, I can discern only that his sin was to be an aggressive reporter,” Fuller said then.

Krimsky was later stationed in the Middle East, where he was based in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war.

He left the AP in 1985 to help establish what became the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), a training and help facility in Washington, D.C.

The AP’s vice president for standards, John Daniszewski, said Krimsky was one of the AP’s finest foreign correspondents. “He reported bravely and truthfully from Moscow, seeking out dissidents and ordinary Russians at a time when Western reporters were under constant surveillance,” he said. “His eventual expulsion was a mark of honour, and by founding ICFJ he went on to champion a free press globally.”

Krimsky worked as an independent media consultant, a journalism trainer, a reporter and a columnist before retiring in 2012. He co-authored the book Hold the Press: The Inside Story on Newspapers, which explained the newspaper industry to “regular people”, and wrote Bringing the World Home: Showing Readers Their Global Connections, a newsroom handbook.