Olivia Barker, USA Today Reporter, Dies at 40

Entertainment reporter Olivia Barker, photographed on the set of The Today Show, died Sunday after a four year battle with breast cancer. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USAToday)
Entertainment reporter Olivia Barker, photographed on the set of The Today Show, died Sunday after a four year battle with breast cancer. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USAToday)

Whip-smart and witty, with a laugh that could fill a newsroom, reporter Olivia Barker died Sunday at home after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was 40.

Soon after joining USA TODAY in 2000, Barker accepted an assignment to compete in the Miss America pageant as the hypothetical 52nd contestant.

Soundly rejected when she pitched diagramming a sentence as her “talent,” Barker instead performed a dramatic reading from John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation. She took the stage with her hair coiffed in “a lacquered bouffant that’s part Lady Bird Johnson, part Bride of Frankenstein,” she wrote.

Barker interviewed all walks of life, from the famous to the infamous, deftly zeroing in on social trends across the nation.

She covered the state of American life as we live it: the decline of courtship; single women co-opting the “bachelor pad”; the stigma that accompanies a woman’s single status; the emergence of “hipster dads”; nuances of solidarity across the nation afterHurricane Katrina; attempts at catharsis by those who lost loved ones in 9/11; and shifting sands of public vs. private discourse, thanks to social media “enabling society to raise its metaphorical megaphone,” as she wrote.

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Source: USA Today | Andrea Mandell

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