June 09, 2016
MIAMI - John Virtue, a lifelong journalist who worked for United Press International for 18 years - much of that time in Latin American bureaus - died on Saturday. He was 81.
Virtue died from complications related to bone cancer in Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Medical Center. Two weeks prior to his death, hospital doctors told him there was nothing more they could do to treat his disease.
He spent his life working as a journalist, an author and an educator, joining Miami's Florida International University in 1989. He retired in 2015 as director of the university's International Media Center, where he worked with Mercedes Vigon, who served as Virtue's associate director.
Vigon, a former UPI employee who now serves as interim director of the International Media Center, described working with Virtue as a "privilege."
The International Media Center works to train and improve journalists throughout Latin America. The center challenges students and journalists to find innovative solutions to problems while encouraging them to brainstorm as to generate new ideas related to journalism.
Vigon said she and Virtue traveled to Paraguay as part of a larger team to help local journalists and newspaper owners improve their coverage of elections. Through workshops and dialogue, the coverage of political campaigns increased, focus groups were set up and investigative journalism flourished. Vigon said many of the journalists who attended workshops led by Virtue went on to become award-winning journalists internationally.
Virtue continued to work even after he was diagnosed with cancer. Vigon said he wanted to keep busy while fighting his illness and retired on his own accord, not forced to retire because of his illness or by his employers. - UPI
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