Debra Schwartz, Veteran SEJ Member, Found Dead Near Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona

Photo: Coconino County Sheriff's Office

SEJ mourns the death of Debra Schwartz, SEJ member since 1995, and previously a mentor in SEJ's Mentor Program. Debra was found dead on Sunday, May 8, 2016, after an apparent fall into a canyon. A search including helicopters, search dogs and teams on horseback had searched for her since Friday.

Information about a service and other details will be posted here as they emerge.

Excerpt from a 2008 email from Debra, posted on SEJ-Talk, SEJ's members-only listserv:

"I just want to encourage all of you to be true to yourselves, should you stand apart from an established newsroom.

"You have your work. Your work is your writing, your reporting, your researching. Your Questing. No one can take that away from you — ever. Keep doing it. It will teach you as always. It will lead you to where you need to go. Be attentive to your work. It is your work. It is what you do.

"Everything else is just for money.

"Keep up your work, and diversify. While I get a new book together, I decided to start a resume, job coaching and business writing business. It has been six weeks now, and I'm already getting repeat business.

"And you know what? It's joyful and gratifying.

"Long ago before SEJ existed, I was a senior writer for Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a well-known outplacement firm. It was my day job. At night I covered meetings and features for whoever would buy: magazines and newspapers in the Chicago area, mostly. Writing is my work. It's what I do. I have to do it.

"So do you. Keep the faith.

'"With deep and sincere gratitude for all I've learned from all of you..."

Excerpt from a 2011 email posted to SEJ-talk by Debra:

"I started adjuncting in 1993 and a month ago was hired into my first full-time faculty position. It's at Arizona State University and I'll be teaching what I love: writing. I am in the English Department, and will have the opportunity to lead classes in magazine writing, environmental advocacy and creative nonfiction. This department is close, supportive, warm, sharp and innovative. That's rare. I feel fortunate.

"In your interview, if you come across as having fun with your subject and really loving it, and most of all being able to explain it clearly, I think you'll get hired. All three together are key, plus an ability to walk beside your students rather than take them by the hand and pull them along. That hurts them. Until recently, I sometimes gave students too much too fast. I treated them like professionals. That acted like weed control. It's not always the thing to accomplish: weeding."