The young Sunday Times journalist Amy Turner, who died last weekend, had a rare set of talents. AA Gill pays tribute to his colleague
She also took down most of my dictation, but shouldn’t have been typing my stuff. It was a long way beneath her position as a feature writer. I would get firm calls from our editor telling me to stop exploiting her, but Amy would insist, saying she didn’t mind, and enjoyed it; and I enjoyed it. I trusted her judgment. Beyond her years and experience, she was a faultlessly sure-footed journalist.
Amy Turner was 29. She came to The Sunday Times Magazine as a graduate on work experience, and then an editor’s assistant. The editor who employed her was Robin Morgan. “Amy was, without doubt, one of the most impressive young discoveries in the 50-year history of the magazine. Her colleagues are unanimous in that. One minute Amy was a young intern straight out of university, fetching and carrying, and then in a very short time she was on the British Press Awards shortlist for young journalist of the year.”
Editorial assistant is a generally thankless flak-catcher’s job, making excuses for the editor and absorbing the frustrations of everyone else, from an outraged reader to a hissy photographer. He or she also has to book restaurants and find hotels. Amy did everyone’s research. Even after she was promoted to junior reporter, she would continue to be the first number you’d call if you needed something.
Tom Craig, the photojournalist, said: “Last month I asked her to get me a boat for the Queen’s flotilla. I asked for warm woollens for the Arctic. For lemurs in Madagascar, and for trout fishing in Bhutan. She was magic.”
“She would always chase interviews for me,” said Camilla Long. “I used to say, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ She was such a bright star on the paper. She could have had people running after her.”
Morgan said: “I remember giving her her first assignment. She asked for an opportunity. Said she’d do it in her own time. I gave her a mission impossible story: landing an interview with a subject who was demanding $50,000. We never, ever, pay. Really it was a test of her enthusiasm and skills. Less than a week later, ahead of deadline, the story landed on my desk. It was unimpeachable in tone, content and accuracy. She’d persuaded not only the villain but also his victim to talk. I asked other writers: who’d helped her? No young journalist on their first assignment could turn in a story as good as this. And no one had.”
Amy got her stories through grit, determination and bucketloads of charm Getting people to talk was Amy’s talent. Not a talent; it was her quality. She was persistent without being hectoring. She would go to considerable lengths to track people down. Had a hunter’s patience. But none of that would have stopped them slamming the door in her face. It was the way she looked: delicate, unthreatening, young for her age and instantly friendly, with an ethereal smile that showed a slightly crooked front tooth.
Read Gill's full and beautifully written tribute here.