Jessica Lum

More Information

  • Born: July 27, 1987
    Died: Jan. 13, 2013
    Survived by: Parents, Bob and Anna Lum of Sacramento; sister, Bethany Ayres of Los Angeles; grandmother, Kim Wu of Sacramento
    Services: Pending
    Remembrances: Donations in memory of Ms. Lum may be made to find a cure for pheochromocytoma. Checks should be made payable to University of California Regents and indicate "malignant pheochromocytoma research" in the memo line. Mail donations to Dr. Paul A. Fitzgerald, UC San Francisco, 350 Parnassus Avenue, Suite 710, San Francisco, CA 94117.

Obituary: Jessica Lum was talented multimedia journalist

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - 8:20 am

Jessica Lum, a journalist who combined multimedia skills with enthusiasm for telling stories to report news and share her personal struggle with cancer on Facebook, died Sunday of cancer, her family said. She was 25.

Ms. Lum, who graduated from McClatchy High School, was a senior at UCLA when she was diagnosed in 2008 with metastatic pheochromocytoma, a rare cancer. Having documented much of her college life in comments and photos on Facebook, she instinctively turned to social media to announce that she had cancer and to seek support.

She posted updates about her health for more than 1,000 Facebook friends. She voiced private feelings in a public forum with "an online style of honesty mixed with humor and sarcasm," according to a Bee story in 2009.

"I have a very, very aggressive cancer, and it's also very advanced," she wrote in 2009. "Good for it, very bad for me. But hey, if I die, I'm taking the cancer out with me, too."

After her health stabilized by 2010, Ms. Lum enrolled at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A talented writer and photographer with skills in video production and Web design, she thrived as a multimedia journalist in class and in professional jobs.

She traveled to South Korea to create an interactive news feature for the Washington Post. She produced a video of Occupy protesters for the San Francisco Chronicle and photographed graffiti for a Wall Street Journal story.

She curated stories and photographs for Facebook and other social media sites as a Los Angeles Times intern. She wrote and created multimedia content as a staff reporter for Mission Local, a San Francisco online news site.

"She could do so much, and she pushed herself to do everything – photos, video, print – at a very high level," said Lydia Chávez, a UC Berkeley professor and Mission Local editor.

For her master's thesis, Ms. Lum spent weeks in the Colorado Desert in Southern California interviewing, photographing and writing about residents of Slab City, a squatters haven in Imperial County. Her multimedia project, "Slab City Stories," won the 2012 Online News Association award for best feature by a student. (The project is online at

Born in Sacramento in 1987, Jessica Ann Lum grew up in South Land Park. The younger of two daughters raised by Bob and Anna Lum, she graduated from McClatchy High School in 2005.

She took a photography class at Sacramento City College that inspired her to go into journalism. She earned an English degree and worked as a reporter and photo editor for the student newspaper at UCLA.

"She loved to tell stories, and she had a real eye for photography," said her father, a physics teacher.

Ms. Lum's cancer symptoms returned shortly before she graduated from UC Berkeley last spring. Her illness shocked colleagues, who did not know about her health issues because she had deleted her earlier Facebook posts about cancer before starting graduate school.

"When she was feeling good, it was easy to forget" about cancer, said her mother, a retired state worker. "She just wanted to embrace life and pursue the things she enjoyed."

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