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‘He was such a beautiful human.’ Nieman fellows mourn killing of journalist in Ukraine.

Brent Renaud, a news videographer and reporter, at the 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony in 2015. He earned a Peabody Award for a documentary, “Last Chance High," which profiled a Chicago school that served students with severe emotional disorders.Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images/file

Colleagues of an American journalist shot and killed in Ukraine Sunday mourned a friend whose respect for his work was revealed through his unflinching reporting in warzones, disaster areas, and refugee crises around the world.

Brent Renaud, 50, a 2019 Nieman Foundation fellow at Harvard University, was killed in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, according to The New York Times. A Nieman colleague, Juan Arredondo, was with Renaud and injured in the same attack.

Renaud was a documentary filmmaker and photographer from Little Rock who began his career covering the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the war in Afghanistan, according to his Nieman biography.


“It’s a huge loss to us personally, and to journalism more broadly,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation, in a phone interview Sunday morning. “Brent was a brilliant videographer and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.”

The filmmaker was in the region while working on a project focused on the global refugee crisis for Time Studios, the news organization’s leaders said in a statement Sunday.

“Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones. It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” the statement said.

Laura Pérez Sánchez, an independent journalist and editor in Puerto Rico, described a journalist whose work took him into conflict zones across the world — yet who remained a sensitive, generous person.

“He was not the kind of person who would try to call for attention,” she said Sunday in a phone interview, “but he grabbed it with his intelligence and precise words.”

Colleagues are also are concerned for the well-being of Arredondo, she said, who has made contact with another Nieman classmate who is a Ukrainian journalist.

“We are worried, of course, about him, and how he is going to get out of there,” Pérez Sánchez said.


Arredondo, in a video posted to social media Sunday morning, said he was working with Renaud in Irpin trying to get footage of refugees crossing a bridge.

At one point, someone offered them a ride in a car, and they were shot at as they made their way past a checkpoint, according to Arredondo.

In the video, Arredondo spoke as he appeared to be undergoing treatment in a busy medical facility.

“We crossed a checkpoint, and they start shooting at us. So the driver turned around, and they kept shooting,” he said.

Arredondo said Renaud had been shot in the neck, but did not know his condition when the video was recorded. The pair were split up, and Arredondo said he was taken by ambulance to the medical facility.

Samantha Appleton, an independent photojournalist and member of the 2019 Nieman class, said they hoped Arredondo will be able to reach the Polish border by Monday.

“There is a plan for him to get out,” she said. “We are all just crossing our fingers.”

Renaud’s death has deeply shaken a tightknit group of Nieman fellows, who gathered on Zoom Sunday.

Several members of that class Sunday described a colleague who didn’t trumpet his professional accomplishments and was known instead for his big-hearted and generous spirit.

Appleton, who also has worked as a war correspondent, said Renaud “put everything into” his projects. She didn’t know he was in Ukraine, but noted he was an experienced journalist who mitigated as much risk as he could in dangerous situations.


“The fact that he went into Irpin to get the absolute ground zero of a refugee’s life ... was just an element of the story he had to tell,” Appleton said. “To go to the very heart of the refugee crisis today, I don’t think he could help himself.”

Lipinski said that despite the risks that came with his work, Renaud was an incredibly gentle person.

“You saw that reflected in a lot of his work. His documentaries, which I hope people will continue to watch, are studies in patience, and listening. He took a lot of time with people, he allowed people’s stories to unfold. He never rushed a story, or an interview subject,” she said.

“There was a deep humanity in the work that came from that,” she said.

Renaud’s work, much of it done with his brother Craig, saw Renaud put himself at risk to show his audience the truth of his subjects, including a 2015 documentary for The New York Times that saw him scale barbed wire fences and wade through rivers to film child migrants heading from Central America to the United States, the Times reported Sunday.

Among the brothers’ achievements was a Peabody Award for their documentary, “Last Chance High,” which profiled a Chicago school that served students with severe emotional disorders and who had been expelled from the city’s other schools, the award organization said on its website.


Maya Hood spoke at a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Harrison, Ark. in this photograph taken by Brent Renaud.Brent Renaud for the Boston Globe

In a 2020 column for the Globe, Renaud wrote about his work covering the Black Lives Matter movement in Harrison, Ark. — long a center of white supremacist violence.

He watched a young Black woman as she stood up during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Harrison that year and demanded people “not stay silent.” The moment resonated with Renaud.

“It was one of the bravest things I think I have ever seen,” Renaud wrote.

The Nieman Foundation, in a statement, said Renaud at Harvard studied the effects of trauma, as well as mental and emotional illness, on the rates of poverty and violence in America. The community was “deeply saddened” by his tragic death, the statement said.

His classmates Sunday also recalled Renaud’s sensitive side — it could take time to get to know him, but as he revealed himself, they learned of intelligence, his accomplishments, his love of animals, his generosity of spirit in sharing what he knew.

“He was such a beautiful human. There was just this ... quirky beauty to him that was unlike anyone I’ve ever known,” Appleton said.

He could also be funny, sometimes unintentionally so.

“He was a very, very funny guy, without pretending to be. He didn’t know he was being so funny, but he was,” Pérez Sánchez said, adding that he even tried out stand up comedy while in Cambridge.

Other Nieman fellows Sunday shared touching remembrances.

Steve Almond, who teaches the Nieman narrative nonfiction class for fellows, said Renaud’s writing was superb, according to the Nieman statement.


“He was shy and didn’t speak a lot in class, but when he did his comments were astonishingly sensitive and precise. We all kind of waited for Brent to weigh in — he had that kind of quiet power of insight,” Almond said.

Steve Myers, a local reporting network editor for ProPublica, said in a Twitter post Renaud was a brilliant journalist, and a “generous, understated human.”

“There’s a hole in our Nieman class that will never be filled,” Myers wrote.

Anica Butler, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for local news and a Nieman fellow with Renaud, wrote that she didn’t “have enough words” about the loss of her friend.

“He was an amazing journalist, yes, but he was an even better person,” Butler wrote on Twitter. “Humble, empathetic, and really funny. I cannot believe he’s gone.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.