It has been more than two weeks since New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid passed away in Syria, but “Bearing Witness in Syria: A War Reporter’s Last Days,” was published just today by the photographer who was with him on his last trip across the border. Losing him seems to weigh heavily on his colleagues at the Times and throughout the field as evidenced by the scores of articles written about his exceptional reporting.
I have wanted to say something, to add to the stream of remembrances that have come from reporters and readers alike whom he inspired through his reporting but haven’t quite been able to find the words. Finally, here is my addition:
It would not be an exaggeration to say he is the reporter who most inspired me. What will always stick out in my mind – something that many others have written about as well – was his humility and sincere interest in all those around him. He came to speak at UW-Madison last year but made a special trip to the Daily Cardinal newsroom to sit down with our team. A Cardinal alum, he seemed to savor the experience of being back in our windowless basement home.
We pulled our chairs into a circle, and he became just another link in the chain. We asked how he had built his career and if he had any tips for up-and-coming journalists like us. This was the first time I had heard of him and his work overseas. But I found myself interested in what he had to say not only because he was covering such important issues – and taking pretty serious risks to do so – but because he spoke of his reporting not just as a career but rather a passion.
From the moment he started speaking, it was obvious he wasn’t there to throw his huge list of accomplishments in our faces. Instead, he took the time to hear and thoughtfully consider our questions about his career and our concerns about our own. He was personable and seemed to sincerely care about us and our work. I guess what I am trying to say is that even as a student journalist I felt noticed.
It was because of this interaction, his passion for reporting and ability to listen that I started following his work religiously and came to understand just how much he had contributed to the field of journalism.
If I learned anything from that hour spent with Anthony Shadid, it was that even when you’ve made it into the big time newsroom, sometimes the best way to build your audience is to be a good audience yourself.
He will be dearly missed.