Voice for the Voiceless, Silenced

Anthony Shadid, New York Times foreign correspondent, Pulitzer winner, fellow alum of my beloved Daily Cardinal, and a personal hero of mine, has died in Syria:

The death of Mr. Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent who had a wife and two children, abruptly ended one of the most storied careers in modern American journalism. Fluent in Arabic, with a gifted eye for detail and contextual writing, Mr. Shadid captured dimensions of life in the Middle East that many others failed to see. Those talents won him aPulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2004 for his coverage of the American invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed, and a second Pulitzer in 2010, also for his Iraq reporting, both of them for The Washington Post. He also was a finalist in 2007 for his coverage of Lebanon, and has been nominated by The Times for his coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings that have transfixed the Middle East for the past year.

Mr. Shadid began his Middle East reporting career as a correspondent for The A.P. based in Cairo, traveling around the region from 1995 to 1999. He later worked at The Boston Globe before moving to The Post, where he was the Islamic Affairs correspondent and Baghdad bureau chief. He joined The Times at the end of 2009.

He was no stranger to injury, harassment and arrest. In 2002, while working for The Globe, he was shot and wounded in the shoulder as he walked on a street in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. During the tumultuous protests in Cairo last year that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Shadid was hounded by Mr. Mubarak’s police, and during a police raid, he had to hide the computers used by Times reporters.

Mr. Shadid, Mr. Hicks and two other Times journalists, Stephen Farrell and Lynsey Addario, were arrested by pro-government militias during the conflict in Libya last year and held for more than a week, during which all were physically abused. Their driver, Mohammad Shaglouf, died.

In the 2004 citation, the Pulitzer Board praised “his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended.” In the 2010 citation, the board praised “his rich, beautifully written series on Iraq as the United States departs and its people and leaders struggle to deal with the legacy of war and to shape the nation’s future.”

He spoke of the risks he took while reporting in aninterview in December with Terry Gross on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” “I did feel that Syria was so important, and that story wouldn’t be told otherwise, that it was worth taking risks for,” he said of an earlier trip to Syria in which he entered the country from Lebanon on a motorcycle across a rugged stretch of land.

In addition to being one of the best reporters and writers working today, Shadid was unfailingly kind to the place he and I both started out. Whenever I’d send a kid his way for some advice or encouragement he always responded, even if at the moment he was God knows where with the world blowing up all around him, and if he had time he’d give it, and if he didn’t have time he’d make it.

A friend and I used to send his stories back and forth annotated with notes like CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW GOOD THIS IS, marveling at the depth of detail in his reporting and the unforgiving, unrelenting reality of his writing. He did what I tell students to do all the time, what I tried to do to the best of my own comparatively meagre abilities in my own work: Go there, and tell everyone you can everything you see. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s not easy to make people care about the victims of war, the ordinary people caught up in conflict, but he did it, by showing us our common humanity and never losing sight of that no matter what the political situation was.

We need more like him. My deepest condolences to his family and those he loved.


2 thoughts on “Voice for the Voiceless, Silenced

Comments are closed.