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Obituary: Diane Stormont

Diane Stormont, who worked for Reuters in Asia from 1986 to 1997, died in Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong on 14 March, succumbing to cancer.

Born in 1959, Diane was among a crop of young journalists who arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980s in the search for work and a fortune. The work, notably at the South China Morning Post, was easier to find than the fortune. She joined Reuters in Hong Kong in January 1986, served as a correspondent in South Korea and carried out a number of fireman assignments. Her final Reuters post was as Hong Kong bureau chief.

She said in her biography that her favourite story was Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. Her worst assignment was the civil war in Sri Lanka. She developed an aversion to tear gas in Seoul, to teenagers with automatic weapons in the Philippines, and to thugs, whether uniformed, sunglassed, besuited and/or armed with guns or writs.

Diane was president of the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club in 1991-92 and president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club in 1998-99.

After leaving Reuters Diane established a successful Internet and editorial consultancy and, in her spare time, acquired a master’s degree in journalism. Always a whizz with things technological (and infinitely helpful to those of us who aren’t), in 2008 she landed a plum job teaching online journalism at Hong Kong University, a post for which there were no fewer than 150 applicants worldwide.

Diane lived in some splendour in a house with a lush garden on Lantau Island along with a small menagerie of pets, which included a hedgehog or two. Generous to a fault, she frequently invited to her home her many friends, colleagues and her students, who cherish memories of splendid, lazy Sunday afternoons with good company, food and wine.

Only in the final weeks did her long-standing illness slow Diane down. She was earthily realistic about her survival chances. In her last e-mail to me, on 25 February, she said she planned not to tell too many people about the return of her cancer, which by then was causing her considerable pain.

“I know it's probably a bit daft but I don't think I have the stomach on the one hand to chat cheerily and openly about it like some do – or have people being sincere and sympathetic/urging the latest last-ditch miracle cure (coffee enemas, Mexican apricot pits, weird and wonderful stuff from the net, etc.). I know they mean well, but ...

“I’m planning to stick to a fairly vague line – ‘receiving treatment’, ‘optimistic’, etc. In reality that’s bollocks of course.” ■