Humanities & Culture

Shadid . . . always chose to dig deeper


Anthony Shadid, while on campus in 2002 to receive an award from the journalism school, spoke to students about the dangers and the rewards of covering the Middle East. Photo: Jeff Miller

Anthony Shadid ’90 could have been a bitter man.

After all, he had seen the worst of what human beings can inflict upon one another. Yet Shadid, who studied journalism at UW–Madison in the 1980s and went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting for the Washington Post, always chose to dig deeper.

As he traveled to the Middle East and began lifting the layers to discover what ultimately leads to conflict, he knew that speaking the same language mattered. Using the Arabic he learned at the UW, he interviewed people on their own terms. He then switched effortlessly to report in English, explaining to readers what was taking place thousands of miles away — and why.

Shadid demonstrated that truthful stories, whether sad or joyful, could plant seeds of optimism. He was in Syria working on his next story for the New York Times this February when he died from a severe asthma attack. The university has established a scholarship in his name.

We at On Wisconsin reached out to him several times over the years, and he always responded, saying that he felt gratitude to the university that taught him “the skills, tools, and background that made journalism enjoyable.”

He answered our questions in 2002, not long after he had been shot in the shoulder while reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank. In 2008, he joined other well-known alumni in a story about favorite places in Madison. (His choice? The Black Bear Lounge, where he gathered with fellow student journalists for “conversations about everything.”)

During his last visit to campus in 2010, he allowed us to sit in as he spoke to a class of journalism students and talked about his work.

“People want to bear witness, and they want to tell you the story,” he said. How fortunate we are that he listened.

Published in the Spring 2012 issue


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