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Obituary: Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown (photo), a multilingual former Reuters correspondent who reported widely from Europe and South America for more than a quarter century, died of a heart attack on Thursday. He was 57.

He died in Brussels where he was editor-in-chief of POLITICO Europe, a joint venture between US-based website POLITICO which covers politics and policy, and German publisher Axel Springer.


Brown began his career in journalism at the Financial Times in London on its Cityline news service before joining Reuters as a graduate trainee. He had postings in Madrid and Lisbon before moving to Argentina from 1994 to 2002, eventually as bureau chief for southern Latin America. The region remained his great love, professionally and personally, having met his wife, Laura, in Argentina.


He was then bureau chief in the Nordic & Baltic region, based in Stockholm, Italian chief correspondent based in Rome and chief correspondent for Germany, based in Berlin. He left Reuters to join POLITICO in 2015 where the new pan-European publication’s multi-national, multi-lingual newsroom would prove a perfect home for the next phase of his career.


A POLITICO obituary said Brown led its European news operations and oversaw its robust expansion to a staff of more than 100 journalists in Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin, as well as the launch this year of a French-language Playbook newsletter, newsletters dedicated to EU-China relations and transatlantic tech coverage, and a new podcast on UK politics, Westminster Insider.


Brown’s death was announced to the staff during an emergency videoconference. Colleagues on the call described him as “the man at the centre” and “the beating heart of the newsroom,” who was fiercely protective of his editors and reporters, and a steadfast defender of their work. They also described his keen ability to cut through the swirl of news developments to spot the angle most worth pursuing, often saying curtly, “That’s the story, isn’t it?” Invariably, he’d already answered his own question.


Although he eagerly embraced inventive forms of digital journalism in recent years, he retained a wire reporter’s instinctive suspicion of adjectives, and deep disdain for articles that ran too long, POLITICO said.


Paul Taylor, a former Reuters correspondent and now contributing columnist for POLITICO who knew Brown for nearly 20 years, said he remained a reporter at heart, eager to help live blog European Council summits or to attend a leader’s news conference being conducted in any of the many languages that he spoke.


“He had a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour and an engaging modesty that didn’t change when he became editor in chief of POLITICO Europe,” Taylor said. “He was also a great listener. Even if he didn’t immediately warm to an idea, he’d often follow it up later.” ■