A founding member of the US' Online News Association (ONA) died last Friday after suffering from leukaemia.

Mary Jane, or MJ Bear was a founding board member of the ONA and at the time of her death was executive producer, Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa, for MSN.

She also worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and had taught journalism at the American University in Washington. Bear worked heavily in online media and held the posts of vice president for online and director news media services at National Public Radio in the US earlier in her career.

"MJ was a journalist to the core who loved great stories, revelling in the time that she was accused of being a spy in Russia, retelling the tales of her career at wonderfully enjoyable and social meals wherever she was. I will always remember dinners in Istanbul, on a terrace by the Acropolis in Athens, drinking coffee in Tel Aviv. She was great company, warm, funny and compassionate," says a post from colleagues at MSN on the company's insider blog.

"She had a maturity and deep experience that made her an ideal mentor and coach for her many friends and colleagues across MSN. They were proud to be a member of what she freely called 'my family'."

A fund to help young journalists has been set up in Bear's name and will be managed by the ONA.

"She wanted the contributions, in her own words, 'to promote the voices of young professionals working in or training to work in the field of online news by presenting programs at ONA's annual conference, or in other venues. The programs will be designed to explore and showcase innovations, developments and new ideas in the field by sponsoring panel presentations, keynote talks or other appropriate formats.'," writes Jane McDonnell, executive director of the ONA, on its website.

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