Journalist Michael J. Feeney died Sunday afternoon at the age of 32 from complications while being treated for kidney disease at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, said his mother, Reba Willis.
Feeney, who was president of the New York Association of Black Journalists from 2012 until December, was well known for his efforts to diversify journalism, the help he provided to young journalists and for his interview coups.
A native of Teaneck, Feeney, who isn’t related to the author, began his career with The Associated Press in Detroit and worked at the New York Daily News from 2009 to 2014 covering entertainment and northern Manhattan neighborhoods. He lived in Harlem before returning to Teaneck, said his mother.
He was also a graduate of Delaware State University and “a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity,” recalled his friend, Austin Fenner.
Feeney covered President Barack Obama’s announcement of the Brother’s Keeper Alliance in the Bronx for NBC, wrote for TheGrio.com and Ebony and was freelancing for The Record in N.J., at the time of his death according to his LinkedIn profile.
Feeney had an illustrious journalism career — much of which his mom has preserved (“I’ve got it all in bins”) and was envied for experiences interviewing Jay Z, Rihanna, Fetty Wap, Drake and many others.
“What he liked most was helping people. He let people stay at his place, he mentored them and encouraged them. He just loved helping up and coming journalists,” and even encouraged the interns in the hospital striving to master medical procedures, Willis said.
Feeney was freelancing for The Record at the time of his death, but had just landed his dream job covering entertainment for CNN.com. “He really held out for that. He had been offered a position and was supposed to start this month and they were moving all his stuff down to Atlanta, but then he called his editor and had to tell her he’d gotten sick: She told him to do what he needed to take care of his health,” said Willis.
In addition to Willis, Feeney leaves behind a sister, Maria Feeney, a twin brother, Anthony Feeney, and a niece and nephew. Funeral arrangements had not been finalized as of Sunday night