Friday, February 17, 2012

"In a class of his own"--Emile Nakhleh on Anthony Shadid

Anthony Shadid's untimely and tragic death brings sorrow to all of us who have followed mass protests in the Arab world in the past year.  The New York Times' obituary this morning describes his grace, perception, intellect, and writing.  I would add, however, that his visceral appreciation of his culture and his burning desire to educate Western readers on the lives of normal people through elegant and graceful reporting are the hallmark of his short but awe-inspiring career.

The Stimson Center's "Seismic Shift" report last year on why so many Americans failed to anticipate the change in the Arab world in 2011 stated that only two groups understood the region well--NGO activists who have worked in the region for years and expert journalists who have covered the popular revolts that toppled dictatorial regimes.  Anthony Shadid headed the list of those journalists.  He was by every measure a distinguished journalist and a gentleman.  I had the honor and pleasure of listening to him at a number of meetings in Washington in recent years and was always impressed by his well-constructed arguments and his passion and compassion for the subjects of his reporting.  When the New York Times hired him from the Washington Post, the Times' management rightly admitted he was a great catch.  It's no exaggeration to say that Anthony Shadid was in a class of his own when it came to reporting, writing, and analyzing the complex cultural context of the societies he was covering. Often, government analysts would read Anthony Shadid’s analytic articles in the Times and before that in the Post whenever they wanted to learn about the cultural nuances in Arab societies. While many journalists focused on the "high politics" of ruling elites, Anthony Shadid delved into the "low politics" of the average people who struggled daily under the repression, corruption, and nepotism of those same ruling elites.  The annals of American journalism will be a vacant place without his reporting.  He will be missed sorely.  I personally will miss reading his elegant and informative reporting in the Times.  May God bless his soul.  Allah yerhamu [God have mercy on him]!

Former Senior Intelligence Office and author of A Necessary Engagement:  Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World 

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