The terrible cost of reporting real news — Anthony Shadid, 43, dies at Syrian border

DSC_9789.JPG (Photo credit: Terissa Schor)

It is with terrible shock and sadness that journalists of all ages, working in all media worldwide, are today mourning the sudden and awful death of veteran foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, working for The New York Times, who died of an asthma attack while trying to move secretly into Syria with Times photographer Tyler Hicks.

From today’s New York Times front page story:

Mr. Shadid, 43, had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other armed elements of the resistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose military forces have been engaged in a harsh repression of the political opposition in a conflict that is now nearly a year old.

The Syrian government, which tightly controls foreign journalists’ activities in the country, had not been informed of his assignment by The Times.

The exact circumstances of Mr. Shadid’s death and his precise location inside Syria when it happened were not immediately clear.

But Mr. Hicks said that Mr. Shadid, who had asthma and had carried medication with him, began to show symptoms as both of them were preparing to leave Syria on Thursday, and the symptoms escalated into what became a fatal attack. Mr. Hicks telephoned his editors at The Times, and a few hours later he was able to take Mr. Shadid’s body into Turkey.

Forgive a rant here from a writer who has worked at three major daily newspapers and whose husband covered the end of the Bosnian war.

There is a very real cost to reporting very real news.

And this is it, the terrible death — with his colleague trying CPR for 30 minutes to revive him, then carrying his dead body over the border into Turkey — of a writer many of us have revered for decades for his brilliant Mideast reporting.

Soldiers expect to see their comrades killed, instantly. They often have a medic or Medevac copter to evacuate a wounded soldier…Journalists and photographers working independently, working with local fixers in dangerous territory, do not.

The next time you gulp down what Facebook — risibly — calls a “news feed” or scan the headlines of yet another celebrity scandal, perhaps mistaking that for journalism, please say a prayer for Shadid and Hicks and all the men and women, armed only with bravery, street smarts, cameras, microphones and notebooks, committed passionately to bringing us the real stuff.

This is what news is.

This is what it can truly cost.

If you want to know more about journalists and how they are treated for trauma, visit this website, for the Dart Center, which has helped several of my colleagues heal from such work.

9 thoughts on “The terrible cost of reporting real news — Anthony Shadid, 43, dies at Syrian border

    1. Thanks.

      Jose and I wish there were something we could do for Tyler, but it’s not clear what, if anything, that might be.

      In these times, too many people seem to think information and news is spewed from some machine, not — as here, and is often the reality — gathered at great personal risk by brilliant and committed professional story-tellers.

      The tribe has lost a major member.

  1. A pertinent reminder of the real cost of journalism. It’s ironic that many people feel it’s reasonable to deride journalists, yet expect them to deliver the news the instant it’s happening and whatever the risk. Journalists get minimal support throughout their reporting despite the horrors they often see day-to-day even locally.

    The ultimate price they pay for the news is their own life….and the stats on that are simply not known to most people (would they care even it they knew?) I wasn’t unhappy when my daughter left journalism behind. My sympathies in your loss.

  2. Thanks for this post – it covers a very sad event. I think you’ve said it well in the comment above: this is ‘brave reporting’. And we need brave reporters. I love that old journalism maxim: the truth must always be told. Some people are so committed to finding out that truth, and bringing that truth to us, that their lives end up being in grave danger. Despite the derision mentioned above, journalism is indeed one of the bravest – and most necessary – professions we have. (PS I don’t count myself as a journalist.)

  3. I wish more people understood what it really takes to gather real news (versus “fake” news like corporate press releases or celebrity BS) and how it can be terribly dangerous. Shadid left behind a young child and a wife; Joao Silva, about whom I have also blogged, is a photographer whose both legs were blown off when he stepped on a landmine. He also works for the NYT — and he plans to get back out there.

    My husband and I, both working in this field, are also friends with many career shooters and journos, so we feel a great sense of pride in these people and loss when they are injured and killed.

  4. Pingback: The Tribe Has Lost Two Valuable Members | Crgardenjoe's Blog

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