The pioneering journalist who covered Vietnam
Anne Morrissy Merick 1933–2017
In 1967, Anne Morrissy Merick was working as an ABC News field producer in Vietnam when Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander, issued an edict effectively barring female journalists from covering front-line combat. Morrissy Merick—who braved snipers, shelling, and monsoons during the war—was furious. “It was a knockout blow to our careers,” she wrote in a 2002 memoir. “We had to fight!” Together with another female journalist, the 5-foot-2-inch reporter set up a meeting with Phil Goulding, a senior Defense Department official. Goulding initially refused to overturn the order, but eventually relented after a few convivial drinks in Morrissy Merick’s hotel room. “And if you are wondering if I slept with him,” she wrote, “the answer is no!”
Born in New York City to an advertising executive father and a former actress, Morrissy Merick “began blazing trails for women” in college, said The New York Times. She was elected sports editor of Cornell University’s student newspaper in 1954—becoming the first woman to hold the post since The Cornell Daily Sun’s founding in 1880. She broke precedent again that year by becoming the “first woman admitted to the press box at the Yale Bowl”—earning national headlines and snide comments from male sports columnists. “The first sportswriting doll,” Red Smith wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, “has breached the last bastion of masculinity left standing this side of the shower door.” After graduating, Morrissy Merick “became sports editor of the international edition of the New York Herald Tribune,” said the Associated Press. She later moved to ABC as a producer and covered the civil rights movement, the space program, and presidential primaries.
Morrissy Merick “landed a wartime assignment in Vietnam in 1967,” said The Washington Post. Rather than adding to what she called the “bangbang” coverage of the latest military offensive, she sought to document the “stories behind the story”—the nurses, the civilians trying to live their lives, the deeper context to the conflict. Her male colleagues, she said, “were not going to go out and cover that story.” Morrissy Merick spent seven years reporting from Vietnam, before finishing her career in Australia and then Washington, D.C. “Women really weren’t tolerated in a lot of journalist jobs,” she said. “You wanted to get ahead, and that’s what you did— you went and covered a story like Vietnam.”