The Swedish jour­nal­ist Kim Wall was killed in Au­gust af­ter board­ing a pri­vate sub­ma­rine to in­ter­view its in­ven­tor. But this is not what she should be re­mem­bered for, says her friend Ca­te­rina Clerici. Hers was an ex­tra­or­di­nary life – a fear­less re­porter an

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The last time I saw Kim was in late June, when she re­turned to New York af­ter spend­ing some time re­port­ing in Europe. Vis­it­ing friends in the city she loved to hate, she was also do­ing “the rounds” with ed­i­tors to pitch ideas.

Over the pre­vi­ous year and a half, a lot had hap­pened: she had won fel­low­ships with the In­ter­na­tional Women’s Me­dia Foun­da­tion to travel to Uganda and Sri Lanka, and had landed a com­mis­sion for a fea­ture in Harper’s mag­a­zine on how Cubans de­liver cul­ture with­out the in­ter­net.

Kim and I started re­port­ing to­gether just over four years ago, fresh out of jour­nal­ism school. We both liked to write, but I soon shifted to pho­tos and vi­su­als – among other rea­sons, be­cause it al­lowed us to be a team. More re­cently, we had started work­ing sep­a­rately and trav­el­ling a lot. We would some­times joke about how we had started “see­ing other peo­ple”.

Most im­por­tantly, Kim had fallen in love and was about to move to Bei­jing with her boyfriend. At the age of 30, af­ter years of fre­net­i­cally mov­ing around to pur­sue her ca­reer – which at times made her feel re­moved from her Swedish child­hood friends, who were al­ready mar­ried, buy­ing houses and start­ing fam­i­lies – she fi­nally had a long-term plan. None of us could be­lieve it, es­pe­cially her. But she seemed truly happy.

She was ex­cited and scared, as al­ways, but this time ex­cite­ment won out. Bei­jing was “like New York in the 1980s”, as she put it – cheap, rough and ready for change. “Peo­ple are ac­tu­ally do­ing things, not just talk­ing about do­ing them.”

But a cou­ple of months later, in Au­gust,

Kim be­came the story.

Her death was an­nounced on 21 Au­gust, 11 days af­ter she had boarded a sub­ma­rine where she was due to con­duct an in­ter­view.

What hap­pened to her is not the screen­play for a Swedish noir, con­trary to how the me­dia pre­sented it. And it must never, ever be used to blame a woman for re­port­ing on her own, or to say that women aren’t able to do this job.

Ev­ery in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist I know would have put her­self or him­self in that sit­u­a­tion, in the course of re­port­ing what sounded like an ex­tremely quirky, com­plex and chal­leng­ing story – that of a Dan­ish man who had started build­ing rock­ets as a teenager, and de­signed and built the largest pri­vate sub­ma­rine.

What sad­dens me the most is that she would have writ­ten a fair and beau­ti­ful por­trait of an un­usual char­ac­ter. It would have been a per­fect Kim story.

Kim’s re­port­ing out­fit – white ten­nis shoes, her hair in a messy bun – was al­ways some­where in be­tween ca­sual and con­fi­dent, clumsy only at first glance. A bit like her. Bit­ing a pen in the cor­ner of her mouth, she would stare ab­sent-mind­edly out of the car win­dow, at a blank spot in her imag­i­na­tion, and then scrib­ble down ques­tions on her note­book un­til we got to the in­ter­view lo­ca­tion. There, she would start her magic.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, we were on our first as­sign­ment for the Guardian US in Gib­son­ton, Florida, known as “the town where the Amer­i­can freak­show went to die”. About 12 miles south of Tampa, the car­ni­val cap­i­tal was founded by a man called the Gi­ant (he was more than 8ft tall) and his wife, the Half­woman (she was just over 2ft). By the 1960s, it was home to hun­dreds of self-de­fined “hu­man odd­i­ties” – the Mon­key Girl, the Fat Lady, the Pen­guin Boy … Ev­ery­one who had run away with the cir­cus.

“For those who didn’t quite fit else­where,” Kim’s piece be­gan, “Gibtown was a utopia.”

This was ex­actly the kind of story Kim liked to do. She had a soft spot for mis­fits, for places and peo­ple that did not con­form and were frowned on if they stood up for them­selves. She made it her mis­sion to learn from their per­spec­tive, al­ways try­ing to make the odd one out to be a lit­tle less odd.

Kim was born to tell sto­ries, and born to write. “When she was six years old, she thought that the bed­time sto­ries were too short,” her mother, In­grid Wall, told me.

“Then she learned to read on her own.”

She grew up in Trelle­borg, Swe­den, where her mother was a fi­nan­cial jour­nal­ist and her fa­ther a pho­to­jour­nal­ist. Kim and her older brother, Tom, grew up with “ink in their nos­trils”, as her mother put it, smelling five or six fresh news­pa­pers ev­ery morn­ing at the break­fast ta­ble. When In­grid and her hus­band, Joachim, had as­sign­ments, they would some­times take the kids with them.

“Kim didn’t want to be the kind of jour­nal­ist I was, re­port­ing on econ­omy and busi­ness in our re­gion. She wanted to go out into the world. So, she told us she would get the best ed­u­ca­tion and back­ground so she could un­der­stand it.” Above all, she

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