As war approached in Baghdad, most U.S. journalists evacuated. Not Ernie Torriero, a reporter for a major U.S. newspaper. He was one of the few American journalists who remained on the ground during the war that felled the Saddam Hussein government.
Torriero covered some of the world’s major conflicts of the early 21st Century, working in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel for the Chicago Tribune.
By 2010, he brought what colleagues call “his energy and enthusiasm” to Voice of America. Tuesday, February 15, VOA leadership announced Torriero passed away in the early morning.
“I am personally devastated by Ernie's passing and my deepest thoughts and sympathies are with his entire family and his many friends,” said Acting VOA Director Yolanda López. “Since 2010 when Ernie first joined VOA, he proved himself to be a talented and incredibly versatile journalist, working across nearly every division on some of our highest profile stories and issues. Ernie was an extraordinary colleague who represented the very best of VOA and his loss will be felt across our entire organization.”
Torriero most recently served as Digital Managing Editor in English to Africa where he was working to create a news website and upgrade social media coverage.
"It is so hard to say goodbye to Ernie. He was a terrific colleague, always sharing great insights and ideas, and his energy and enthusiasm kept us all moving forward,” said Sonya Laurence Green who was his last supervisor as former chief of the English to Africa service. “He was also a terrific friend, telling many jokes and stories from his years as a journalist in almost every corner of the world.”
Previously at VOA, Torriero served as chief of the China Branch, managing editor of the Extremism Watch Desk, Middle East editor in VOA’s Central News Division and executive producer for VOANews.com, the agency’s lead English web site.
Torriero won awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Florida Press Club. He was winner of the Paul Hansell Award in 1995, the top merit for a Florida journalist for a year’s body of work.
He earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Science from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where he lectured as an adjunct professor.
Green said Torriero was known among his friends as being “a bit of a gourmand, cooking up wonderful dishes in his spare time” who could also “commiserate about the absurdities of life and work.”
During the past two years, Ernie oversaw digital news coverage of Africa’s 54 countries, significantly driving social media traffic to VOA Africa platforms. The website Ernie and his staff were building, voaafrica.com, is expected to go online in April, about the same time its editor would have turned 68.
Ernie is survived by his loving wife Antje Torriero, who serves as a Craft Video Editor in VOA Central Production Services, and their two 15-year-old twin sons, Andreas and Julius.