He had previously worked in government and in business and, driven purely by a sense of vocation and no prior journalism experience, launched his reporting career in Asia. He quickly discovered that, with no contacts and limited knowledge of other languages, it was hard going. But travelling to dangerous conflict areas might, he thought, provide more freelance commissions. So when the Gulf War got underway, Kurt headed for the Middle East. He decided to concentrate on Kurdistan but, because of the large numbers of similarly-minded reporters, he initially had more success selling photos rather than stories.
His break came when he stayed on after others left. In October 1991 he was on the spot when Kurdish guerrillas counter-attacked Iraqi forces shelling the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. His reports caught Reuters attention and assignments followed.
When Bosnia descended into brutal conflict, Reuters sent Kurt to Sarajevo where the power of his reporting of the siege of that city had widespread impact, mobilizing public opinion and prompting NATO to intervene. The poignancy of the story of two lovers, a Serb and a Moslem, killed and left to lie for days on a river bank, made it one of Kurt’s signature articles, capturing so many elements: the casual brutality of war, the intense suffering of families and the bureaucratic indifference of authorities.
In all his reports, he sought to get as close to the story as possible so that he could quickly relay details and show how people were affected by events. While that often meant going into the dangerous heart of a conflict zone, he was always mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary risk.
"War reporting is a job, a craft -- not a holy crusade. The thing is to work and not get hurt. When that's no longer possible, it's time to get out”, he once wrote.
But in Sierra Leone, luck and instinct finally failed him. On 24th May, 2000, a military ambush claimed the lives of Kurt and of cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora.
The news shocked colleagues and associates, who quickly proclaimed their respect and admiration for a reporter they considered to be one of the world’s best. A website – www.ksmemorial.com – was set up to carry people’s tributes and to provide examples of his work.
Half of Kurt’s ashes were buried next to his mother in Washington D.C.; the rest were buried in Sarajevo, alongside the graves of the two lovers whose story he had told to the world.