Eloquent and prescient. Graceful and gripping. His death on Thursday, from an apparent asthma attack while on a reporting trip in Syria, has deprived American journalism of its most gifted foreign correspondent in a generation. His coverage of the Middle East — from Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and beyond — was, simply, the best. He set the standard. If you cared about the region, if you really wanted to understand what was going on, you read Anthony.
When he came to the Washington Post about a decade ago to serve as a correspondent, I was working as an editor at the paper. I asked a standard job-interview question about his goals in the years ahead, and he provided one of the most striking, emphatic answers I can recall from countless discussions of that type: He intended to move to the Middle East, to chronicle in every dimension possible the upheavals in Arab societies that would inevitably follow the September 11th attacks, and to do nothing else, professionally. If we, the Post, would facilitate this ambition, he would be grateful, but that was the only job he was interested in or would be for years to come, he said. It is rare for anyone—never mind a writer—to possess such clarity. And Shadid carried out his plan exactly as he said he would, just not for the full measure of years that we would have wished.
Terry McDermott posts a recent interview with Shadid about Iraq.