Don’t assume AP intern’s cause of death

Armando Montaño died in Mexico, a country notoriously dangerous to journalists. But we don't know yet if his death was work-related

The death of Armando Montaño, a 22-year-old Associated Press intern in Mexico City, is a tragic loss to the world of journalism that the recent Grinnell College graduate just recently began to navigate. What is not yet known, however, is if Montaño’s death was related to his profession.

A Colorado Springs, CO native, Montaño arrived in Mexico last month to begin a summerlong internship at the AP. His body was found in an apartment building elevator shaft near his home early Saturday morning.

Before Montaño’s death, 2012 was already shaping up to be the deadliest year for journalists since both the International Press Institute and the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping track 15 and 20 years ago, respectively. And Mexico is among the most dangerous countries for journalists.

These facts make it tempting to assume that Montaño’s death was related to his work, even though the cause of death has not been released. That’s what seemingly happened at The Washington Post on Sunday night, where somebody tweeted,

WaPo senior social media producer T.J. Ortenzi became aware of the mistake on Monday via a tweet from Boston Globe newsroom Web developer Andy Boyle (whose screen shot is embedded above). Ortenzi tweeted a correction before pulling the erroneous tweet a half hour later. Ortenzi declined to name who was responsible for last night’s tweet.

“We got it wrong,” Ortenzi told CJR. “This is one of those things you don’t want to be wrong about.”

Absolutely. Perhaps Montaño was killed for doing his job. Perhaps not. Until we know what happened, one of the worst ways to memorialize the ambitious young journalist—who completed internships at The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Seattle Times, and The Colorado Independent before heading to Mexico—is to get his story wrong.

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Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison. Tags: , ,