The president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association died Thursday at 48 after a two-year battle with oral cancer.
Missouri native and Washington, D.C.-based journalist Michael Triplett was elected president in August, and led the organization through its first inclusion in the Unity: Journalists for Diversity conference, a quadrennial gathering of journalists along with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association. According to NLGJA, Triplett was the group’s first representative to the Unity board, working to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into the Unity group’s mission.
Once a lawyer, in 2000, Triplett began reporting on tax and labor policy for legal news publisher Bureau of National Affairs, now known as Bloomberg-BNA, where Triplett served as assistant managing editor. Triplett lived in Arlington, Va., where the organization is headquartered, with his partner, Jack Squier. According to Triplett’s Facebook page, until 2011, he’d also served as an adjunct instructor at the American University Washington College of Law, where Triplett received his Juris Doctorate in 1998.
Triplett became involved in the D.C. chapter of NLGJA in 2006, according to communications consultant Matthew Berger, who served with Triplett on the D.C. chapter board, and then later on the national board.
“Michael was incredibly smart and passionate and had a quiet determination that really got things done,” Berger told the Blade. “That is something that is often needed in a non-profit group of volunteers. Instead of people who say ‘this needs to be done,’ you need people like Michael who will roll up their sleeves and do it. that’s why he rose so fast in the organization: he was willing to take on so many different tasks. Really understood the role of the organization.”
“While Michael only served as president for a few short months, he has been a member of our leadership team for several years, first as a Washington, D.C. chapter board member and president and then as a national board member and vice president for print,” read a statement released by NLGJA on Thursday. “His quiet demeanor masked a steely resolve and an uncanny ability to push our organization forward. Michael quickly became someone who could be relied on both to provide sage advice as well as the time and energy to help us accomplish our goals.
Triplett also served as principle contributor to the organization’s blog RE:ACT, which addresses issues of fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues in the media, and guided the blog’s contributors.
“That’s why he was such a great person, he was able to really connect with the organization’s mission and disseminate it to such a large group through the [react] blog. He was a joy to be around, he was fun, and he had a great spirit,” Berger said.
According to friends of Triplett, he died at his family’s home in Alabama. Triplett’s colleagues at NLGJA expect to announce plans soon to honor the long-time member in Washington, D.C.
“Even the last few years, when things were difficult he had an incredible optimism and was a sweet sweet person,” Berger told the Blade.