Steve Fainaru, a former Post reporter who worked extensively with Shadid in Iraq and also won a Pulitzer for his own work, recalled him as “the best journalist I’d ever seen — without any question.”
“He wrote poetry on deadline,” Fainaru said. “What made him so great as a journalist [was that] he was able to somehow find compassion and empathy in everything he touched and wrote about.”
Fainaru recalled being in Kirkuk in northern Iraq with Shadid and asking the reporter if he thought it was safe to move around. “His response was, ‘I don’t know.’ And then he was gone. He was off reporting. . . . He was not, in my mind, an adrenaline junkie. He took the risks grudgingly, because that’s where the story was.”
Former Boston Globe foreign editor James F. Smith recalled that Shadid didn’t want to leave the West Bank after being shot in 2002 unless he was allowed to take a Palestinian colleague with him through the Israeli checkpoint. “It took hours to negotiate that passage, and Anthony’s life was at risk, but he wouldn’t come out on his own,” Smith said.
Shadid won the prestigious George Polk Award and an Overseas Press Club award; he is among the few foreign correspondents who have won two Pulitzers for foreign reporting.
Speaking to an audience in Oklahoma City about a month after being held with three Times colleagues in Libya, Shadid said he had had a conversation with his father the night before he was detained.
“Maybe a little bit arrogantly, perhaps with a little bit of conceit, I said, ‘It’s okay, Dad. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been in this situation before,’ ” Shadid told the crowd of several dozen people, according to the Associated Press. “I guess on some level I felt that if I wasn’t there to tell the story, the story wouldn’t be told.”
Shadid was a Lebanese American from Oklahoma; he studied at the University of Wisconsin and the American University of Cairo. He was the author of three books on Islam and the Middle East.
“Anthony Shadid’s magic was reporting,” said former Post foreign editor David Hoffman, who also worked closely with Shadid.
“Everywhere he went, he absorbed stories about people and their trials. Once when he was working on his second book, ‘Night Draws Near,’ we had a long talk about how to do it. And I saw how he did it: bundles of notebooks from Iraq, thousands of pages — stories, impressions, smells and sights. One young girl’s diary about those terrible days of war became part of the book, but the diary came to life in his hands.”
Hoffman recalled a memo Shadid wrote in early 2006 about wanting to probe what would happen when the frozen leadership of Arab countries cracked.
He wrote: “To me, this moment is no less sweeping than that experienced by Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Cold War.”
“And he was right,” said Hoffman. “The Arab Spring was what he had been waiting for.”
Editors Denny McAuliffe and Patricia Gaston and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.