Darran Simon covers the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

Darran Simon covers the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Former Newsday reporter Darran Simon, a journalist who tackled tough subjects with humanity and grace, was found dead last week in his apartment in Washington, D.C.

He was 43.

Simon reported and wrote about subjects that ranged from crime and catastrophe to the triumph of the human spirit, all with equal aplomb.

He worked on some of the biggest stories for some of the most-demanding editors with a seeming ease that belied the hard work it took to do so. He brought insight, honesty and compassion to even the most difficult and complicated issues.

He did so in a prolific career at the Miami Herald, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, CNN and most recently The Washington Post.

Simon began that latest chapter on March 2, stepping into a new role covering Washington, D.C., city government and preparations for the coronavirus outbreak. 

"He empathized with people," his father, Stephen Simon, said. "That's the word I want to stress about him: He empathized … His telling stories, it was often the unsung heroes. The people in the background who are not getting the recognition; not just not getting the recognition, but the people who are not looking for the recognition.

"That's the stories he wanted to tell. That you can do good, no matter what you are, what the circumstances are."

Born in London on March 18, 1977, Simon was one of three children of Stephen and Jacqueline Simon, an accountant and a middle school teacher, spending his first nine years in their native Guyana before the family moved to Iselin, New Jersey.

Following high school graduation, he attended the University of Rhode Island, where he was a member of the track and field team, graduating in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in English.

He received his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. In 2019, Simon was among 15 journalists selected from about 300 applicants for the weeklong Ochberg Fellowship at the Columbia University School of Journalism's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

Simon wrote on wide-ranging issues: a profile for CNN on the spiritual leader who guided parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a white supremacist killed nine members, including the pastor, in 2015; minority affairs issues in Miami; the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; crime in Philadelphia.

At Newsday, Simon covered, among many stories, the funeral of Muhammad Ali, the church shooting in Charleston and the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“Darran had a love of the written word that was reflected in his graceful and nuanced storytelling, which was built on a foundation of meticulous reporting," said Deborah Henley, editor of Newsday. "He went about his work with dedication and visible joy. He was a valued colleague."

Simon is survived by his parents, brother Sherrard Simon of South Carolina, sister Jeunee Simon of California, grandmother Agnes Harry and a loving array of aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

The Simon family asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in Darran Simon’s memory to Epic Church International, 2707 Main Street Ext., Sayreville, NJ 08872.

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