Remembering Anthony Shadid

The first time I spoke to Anthony Shadid in person, he apologized for getting shot.

I had nominated Anthony for the journalism school’s Nafziger Award after following his move from the Associated Press to the Boston Globe and reading his first book, Legacy of the Prophet. Shortly before he was scheduled to come to campus to accept it, he was wounded while on assignment in Ramallah.

When he arrived in Madison, arm in a sling, I asked him if the pain was manageable. He waved off the question and instead said, “I must have really worried you. I’m so sorry.”

Here he was, acclaimed foreign reporter, shot on assignment, winning an award, and he was concerned about me?

That was the first of many, many moments that defined Anthony’s humility in my eyes. He had admirable talents, undoubtedly. But I always felt the thoughtful interviewing, the lyrical writing, the creative angles and the acute insights all sprang from that same well of humility.

Journalism can breed ego. Hardened by seeing difficult things and softened by the conceit of bylines, we can come to see ourselves as something better or bigger than we are. But Anthony never allowed a chasm to grow between his work and his humanity. He never saw himself as larger than anyone or anything.

That humble approach applied well beyond his work. I saw it in his pride and affection for his family, his dedication to his alma mater and his awe for his beloved Green Bay Packers.

He brought it to our friendship, as well. Starting with that nomination back in 2001, I slipped into a habit of signing all my messages to him, “As always, stay safe.” I didn’t notice it, but Anthony did. He pointed it out and said he appreciated my “motherly nature.” It was a theme he would return to often when we interacted. Through a smattering of emails between Madison and the Palestinian territories, he’d taken a small note and teased out a larger meaning.

He once wrote, “The best journalism is sometimes about footnotes, when we write small to say something big.”

I do not have his gift of words, but I believe it’s not just the best journalism that makes this move from observation to meaning. It’s also the best humanity.

Anthony Shadid was a remarkable journalist. But he was an even better man.

7 thoughts on “Remembering Anthony Shadid

  1. Anthony signed a copy of Night Draws Near for Mike when he was in Madison last winter. It says “from one Okie to another”..we’ll cherish it. A lovely man.

  2. This was a really nice article, Katy. I barely knew him, read only a smattering of his work and worked at the newspaper sworn against his; but I’ve been getting progressively more upset about this as the day’s gone on. I wish I could go as far as to call him an inspiration, but I can at least say that he is inspiring.

  3. Thanks, Katy. I know this loss is personal for you. For those of us who just knew Anthony in passing but who were enlightened by his reporting and writing, it is a beautiful reminder of the humanity that he brought to his work and to our understanding of the world.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Katy. This is a great reminder for students — success does not always need to breed a large ego. Anthony was classy and a class apart. He will be missed.

  5. Great depiction of how Shadid will be missed not just for his work, but also for his humanity

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