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IRE friend and stalwart John Bones dies at 69

(May 15, 2024) — Journalists wear many hats in the newsroom these days, but it’s not often that they’re international diplomats, too. 

John Bones was a rare global ambassador in the field, advocating for cultural exchange and cross-country collaborations in journalism.

Bones died May 13 in Oslo, Norway, at the age of 69.

“John brought Norwegian journalism to the world - and took the world home with him,” SKUP, the Norwegian Foundation for Investigative Journalism, wrote in memoriam. 

Bones, who served as general manager at SKUP, was a pioneer in the industry and a longtime champion of IRE. He taught classes at many IRE and NICAR conferences over the last two decades, and regularly brought groups of journalists from Norway to train at NICAR.

The IRE community is saddened by the news of his passing.

“A huge loss for journalists from many nations,” longtime IRE speaker Paul Overberg shared online.

“A lovely human and terrific investigative journalist. I will miss seeing him at IRE,” former IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson wrote.

IRE Executive Director Diana Fuentes remembers exchanging emails with Bones just last month. After being diagnosed with cancer last year, he said he had hoped to be back at work this summer.

“John was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known,” Fuentes said. “A kind and welcoming person who enjoyed helping others, he embodied the very spirit of IRE.”

Doug Haddix, IRE’s former Executive Director, got to see that hospitality on display in Bones’ home country. When he and his family visited Norway in 2012, Bones led them on a walking tour of Oslo, including a visit to the Verdens Gang AS newspaper. 

“John was just beaming the whole time because I'm not sure how many of his IRE friends were ever able to visit him in Oslo,” Haddix said. “But he was very proud and very gracious to be hosting us there.” 

John Bones and Doug Haddix pictured in Oslo, Norway in 2012. Photo provided by Doug Haddix.

That cultural exchange was at the heart of Bones’ work as a journalism leader and mentor. He was passionate about engaging IRE’s global membership, often organizing groups of 10-15 journalists and bringing them to NICAR conferences.

He acted almost like a “tour guide,” Haddix remembers, setting up meetings and visits for them at news organizations in New York and Washington, D.C.

“He wanted to make sure that they experienced more than a conference,” Haddix said. “He wanted them to see what working journalists in the United States were dealing with and what they might learn from them, and vice versa. It was always mutual.”

Today, as the industry and the world around us evolve, journalists have plenty to take away from his example. 

Bones worked in different types of media and recognized the power of technology. He was generous with his time and wisdom, helping to grow IRE, GIJN and others.

“One of John's main legacies will be for people to always adapt, and to never be comfortable and get into a rut,” Haddix said. “He loved learning new things.”

Beyond his excellence in journalism, Bones was a true ambassador for cross-border collaboration. He was “a man of the world,” his colleagues at SKUP write, with “friends on every continent.” 

“John brought out the best in people, celebrating all kinds of cultures and putting everyone at ease with his ready smile,” Fuentes said. “He will be missed very much.”

Bones is survived by five children. Details about services are pending.

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