This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The death of Anthony Shadid, while on assignment for the New York Times at Syria, is a reminder that, for all the talk of the end of newspapers and the rise of the World Wide Web, classical foreign corresponding is still at a premium. We weren’t lucky enough to know Shadid personally, and we may not have agreed with him politically. But like millions of others, we made a point of reading his dispatches from Iraq and Libya and other battles in the Middle East theater for their news, insights, and eloquence. It’s not surprising that he won two Pulitzer Prizes and that our most famed newspapers vied to employ him.
We were struck, too, by the circumstances of Shadid’s death. He’d come close several times; he’d been shot in the shoulder while on assignment at Ramallah and had been seized by pro-Gadhafi forces at Libya. What caught up to him at Syria was something more mundane. He had crossed into Syria on foot (other means, if they were open at all, were too dangerous). The Times reported that he and a Times photographer, Tyler Hicks, had squeezed through a wire fence, on the Syrian side of which they were met by guides on horseback.
This is how a great correspondent of a modern newspaper had to maneuver into a war zone in the 21st century. Drones might be cruising overhead. Satellites in outer space might be handling their message traffic. But the correspondents traipsed through the war zone on foot behind horses. It apparently was the dust and the horses that aggravated the asthma from which Shadid long suffered. Though he had medicine for it, he was overcome. Suddenly, the Times reported, he leaned against a rock with both hands. When Hicks asked him if he was okay, Shadid collapsed to the ground, where, even as his colleague worked desperately to try to save him, his life slipped away. His friend carried his fallen comrade back to Turkey.
We take it as a reminder that there is no substitute for the kind of reporting that Shadid did. The satellites can’t see what he saw, the telephoto lenses can’t capture the whispers that he heard. We would not for a moment suggest that the result of the kind of reporting Shadid did must be delivered on a printed page. It can be delivered all sorts of ways. But it can’t be gathered all sorts of ways. It has to be reported the old-fashioned way, even if it means squeezing through a fence and walking at night into a war zone on rugged terrain behind a pack of dusty horses.