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RIP Anthony Shadid (and journos killed in Syria)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    If you didn't know him by name, you probably knew his work. Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer recipient, covered the Middle East for the New York Times and Washington Post for many years. He died of an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria, at age 43. His photographer carried his body across the border into Turkey.

  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Wow, what a career. RIP
  3. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Gotta love the photographer for getting his body back to Turkey.
  4. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Jesus -- he goes into Syria during a brutal near-civil war, and dies of an asthma attack due to his proximity to horses?

    Hell of a life, and a crappy way to end it way too soon. RIP.
  5. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Wow. It sounds like the reporter and photog had an incredible relationship, including being captured in Libya together. Can't imagine having to watch your reporter die, then carry him back. Just wow.
  6. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    This is just awful news.

    I mean this, guys: We might have just lost the best newspaper reporter working right now.

    I have a Shadid interview in a Best Newspaper Writing book somewhere in my house. I will try to post some of his wisdom later this morning.

    We are all worse off this morning without his flash light casting light upon some dark corners of the globe.
  7. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Exactly my thoughts.

    Wonder if had he been closer to medical facilities things would have been different.

    A huge loss.
  8. Ben.Breiner

    Ben.Breiner Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    I was lucky enough to hear him speak at his former college paper a year or two ago. The man was an amazing reporter and this is just a stunning loss.
  9. MrBSquared

    MrBSquared Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    This photog, Tyler Hicks, was one of the four NYT journalists who were captured and held by the government in Libya last year. I worked with Tyler and one of his best friends, Chris Hondros, a photog who died after he was wounded covering a firefight in Libya. I am not surprised Tyler would do something like this. He's that kind of guy.
  10. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Here are excerpts from an interview with Shadid that appeared in the Poynter "2004 Best Newspaper Writing," which I don't think is published annually any longer. I posted the first couple questions, then skipped ahead to some of the more craftier/inside baseball questions from a journalist's standpoint. I'll try to put more of it up later today or throughout the weekend - hopefully, considering the circumstances, this will be considered acceptable from a copyright/intellectual property standpoint. If anyone is uncomfortable with it, I can delete:

    Q: I want to start with your thinking before you went into Iraq. Now you'd been to Iraq twice before, is that correct?

    A: That's right. Once with the Associated Press in 1998 and again with The Boston Globe in 2002.

    Q: So you went in this time just as the war was starting?

    A: I think I got there about 10 days to two weeks before the war, and I went in with the intention of just covering the war. That was my goal. There was a lot of concern at the time whether the Post would pull us out like a lot of other news organizations were, and that definitely was my most pressing concern at that time, maybe even more pressing than just trying to get a sense of the story. I felt strongly that it's part of the responsibility of journalists to have eyes and ears everywhere, not only with the troops, but in Baghdad and anywhere it's possible.

    Q: At what point did the Post say it was not going to pull people out?

    A: It was definitely a last-minute thing. Most people pulled out maybe the day before the bombing started, and I had a conversation with my editor early that morning just pleading my case to stay in Baghdad. Obviously they were concerned - rightfully so - and I think at that point we put it on a 12-hour basis. Every 12 hours we'd reassess where things were at, and within 24 hours the war started and there wasn't any way to get out.


    Q: How did the people you were reporting on react to your presence for this intensely personal thing?

    A: In these types of stories, there's a little bit more tension in the relationship, because I had to be very aggressive in the reporting. It was AP training in a lot of ways - I worked for the AP for 10 years - I had to get names and ages and I was insistent on that. To me, it's the very basic element of turning this person into a real person in that story. And ages are not something the people necessarily know in Iraq. When you ask them for their age, they'll sit there and think for a few seconds and then they'll say the year they were born, and you'll ask the day and they don't know. So even that becomes a little bit of a hassle. I would always ask people what they ate. When a certain thing happened, I want to know what they were eating or what they were doing at the moment something happened.

    A lot of times, I'd say the color's more important than the quote, and so questions would seem bizarre to them a lot of times, but these were details I thought would be the only way to bring them to life to a reader, and I had to be very insistent on getting them. I also was traveling without a photographer, so a lot of times in the reporting I would try to almost be like a photographer trying to capture the scenes. So in the situation with the funeral, for instance, when I would fade into the background, there was usually no problem. They're so overwhelmed by the grief of the moment that I think they ignored me. When I had to bring myself into the reporting, when I actually had to ask them questions, I think they found it difficult to be honest because the questions were in some ways very bizarre. Why would somebody want this kind of detail? Why would somebody want to know such facts that seem so inconsequential at a moment of such tragedy? it was difficult.

    You feel awkward but you do understand that if you don't ask these questions, then you'll never be able to convey the humanity of that moment.


    Q: You wrote 24 front-page stories in 21 days. You were telling me before we began the interview about how tired you were, how you were writing from a point of exhaustion. As a reader of your stories, I found that they wove together. It's almost like chapters of a book when you read them. Did you have a sense that that was what was happening as you were doing it?

    A: I wish I were smart enough to deal with it and do it that way, but I'm not. I did have an approach that I wanted to develop throughout the war, and I didn't want to do certain things with the reporting and writing. But often it was luck. It was luck that I was able to find these people or situations that could bring something to the story that might not have been there otherwise. But exhaustion was always a factor. I was sitting with the Los Angeles Times reporter one night, I think it was 3 or 4 in the morning, and we'd both finished filing, and we said if this war goes on for two months, we can't make it. I mean, it was grueling.

    On a typical day, you try to get up by 9 or 10 if you could and then you just go all day. You come back to your room at maybe 6, 7, or 8 and try to formulate what you want to do with the story. I always outline stories, and I woudl go through my notes pretty relentlessly because I didn't want to miss anything. I often spend as much time outlining stories as I do writing them, and sometimes I wouldn't have my lede done until 11 at night and then probably not have the story finished until 2 or 3 in the morning. Then you talk to your editor, do the editing, and then start another day. It was like that day after day. We lived on canned tuna and canned cheese, which I'd never seen before and I don't think I'll ever eat again. I was sick probably a third of the time, dealing with the exhaustion. If it wasn't for adrenaline, I probably wouldn't have been able to make it through the whole time.
  11. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    Shadid was also one of those captured, right?

    Really sad story. Guy was a great reporter, and his willingness/need/desire to get the story was what put him in proximity to the horses, which triggered the fatal asthmatic episode.
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Re: RIP Anthony Shadid

    I think the stuff about asking bizarre questions is really compelling - and really instructive. I think some of the most explosive debates on this particular board have surrounded "dumb questions." I recall, for example, a debate about whether a reporter should have asked a losing wrestler for quotes - some people just didn't understand why that person would have anything to offer.

    I think what we can glean for Shadid's comments are that you certainly need to nail down the key information - names, dates, ages, etc., etc. But that you also, if you want to squeeze the full potential out of your story, should be digging for details that your sources might not understand are important or relevant.

    I apologize if this is seen as hijacking an RIP thread to anyone. But I think there is no better way to honor this great war correspondent, perhaps one of our greatest since Ernie Pyle, than for other journalists to try to learn from his methods, which he so graciously shared with us in such painstaking detail.
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