This week we lost one of the great journalists of our age, Anthony Shadid, who died far too young, after doing so very much. Shadid was made from special stuff, the stuff of the foreign correspondent, and in recent years he brought real lives and big truths about great events in the Middle East to readers of the Boston Globe, Washington Post and New York Times and many others who followed his work.
I imagine that as Shadid left this earth and ascended to the skies he was met by a greeting committee at the gates of heaven composed of folks like Thomas Jefferson, John Peter Zenger and Edward R. Murrow who rose to greet him with a standing ovation, saying something like:
"Son, you were what we had in mind when we believed in the high trust of a free press of a great nation."
There is much to criticize in the press today, but that is for another day. This is a day to reflect on Anthony Shadid, and others in the press who risk their lives with the courage of troops under fire, or risk their careers with the courage that comes with the search for truth, and all of those who, like Shadid, do honor to the high trust of a free press.
I have written and believe that epochal events in the Middle East today, called at times the Arab Spring and the Arab Awakening, have a historical importance that is in the early stages of evolving and will someday, probably sooner than we think, have a historical power that we barely understand today, but someday will.
Anthony Shadid was there. And because he was there, we were there.
Anthony Shadid was there in war and peace, amid conflict and conciliation, surrounded by carnage and courage. And because he was there, we were there.
Anthony Shadid was there because he defied death to be there. We were there because he wrote with the talent of a great composer giving birth to a symphony. With the respect for truth that is the secret weapon of the real journalist. With a human affinity for those he covered, including those he loved, those he despised, those he feared, those he respected, those whose evil brought him to anger, those whose suffering brought him to tears, those whose failure led him to witness tragedy of indescribable sadness, those who triumphs led him to witness glory and wonders and joy of indescribable hope, and above all:
It was about the story.
Anthony Shadid knew that his first and only loyalty was to those who read the papers, watch the television and listen to the radio and want to know the who, what, when, where and why of the real story of the real men and women of flesh and blood who struggle, sometimes to their death, for the hopes, hates, fears, prayers, frustrations and dreams that separate the human species from the animals.
That, my friends, is journalism.
Anthony Shadid was a journalist.
Thomas Jefferson, John Peter Zenger, Edward R. Murrow and the great minds of the high trust of the free press of great nations would all be proud of him.
Goodbye, Anthony Shadid, and thank you.