Though I wasn’t aware of journalist Anthony Shadid before I learned of his recent death, I find myself inspired by his work now:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post (and more recently the New York Times), Shadid died at the age of 43 of an asthma attack while on assignment in Syria, prompting an outpouring of grief from his colleagues and his readers. He also wrote several acclaimed books about the Middle East, including the soon-to-be released “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East”.
Shadid went beyond the standard practice of documenting the actions of the powerful by also telling “smaller” stories about the daily experiences of ordinary people, earning his reputation for putting a human face on some of the Middle East’s political and social complexities.
Of his work, Amy Sullivan of The Atlantic said “There are great reporters and there are great writers. And then there are the rare few who inspire awe by being both.” “He was the best of our breed” said TIME’s Bobby Ghosh, going on to express a sentiment which I saw echoed by many others: That Shadid’s talent, combined with his lack of ego, made him one of the finest journalists of his generation.
To humanize something, I think, requires a deep well of both humility and empathy. It is the act of making one person’s interior experience visible to the rest of us. With professional skill and with personal kindness, Anthony Shadid made a life’s work out of helping people understand one another better. It seems to me that his ability to write “poetry on deadline” won’t soon be replaced, but perhaps it’s that spirit of generosity towards both the people he wrote about and the people he worked with that should be his most enduring legacy.