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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Friends bid farewell to reporter Anthony Shadid

photo of David Hoffman, remembering colleague Anthony Shadid

David Hoffman of the Washington Post remembers colleague Anthony Shadid. Photo by Brett Blaske

It is hard to describe Anthony Shadid in one word. Speakers at the 2012 Journalism Ethics Conference made that very clear when speaking about Shadid, UW-Madison alumni and former Center for Journalism Ethics advisory board member, in the final session of the day, “The Truths We Tell: Reporting from Foreign Fields: A Tribute to Anthony Shadid”.

All of the speakers had been connected to Shadid in different ways, at different points in his journalistic life.  The four speakers, Kayla Johnson, Mark Pitsch, Katy Culver and David Hoffman, shared stories about Shadid and how he changed journalism ethics forever with his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting from the Middle East.

“Anyone can do journalism it seems, but few do it well,” said Professor Stephen Ward, director of Center for Journalism Ethics, in his opening remarks for the session. “And fewer still do it greatly. And Anthony of course was a convergence of all those things that go into a great journalist.”

So how does one describe this great journalist with words, when he has touched so many people and changed their lives as well? The speakers all had to think about this challenge when paying tribute to the fallen reporter, and each had a different way of evoking Anthony Shadid.

Some used adjectives, some used metaphors, but they all had one thing in common: It was nearly impossible to find the single perfect word for Anthony Shadid.

“I could say that he was influential,” said Katy Culver, professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a longtime friend of Shadid. “But that doesn’t feel to me like I’m giving him the meaning that he deserves.”

Kayla Johnson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal, spoke of the influence Shadid still has on the student newspaper, even years after he had wrote for it.

“Anthony was and is our inspiration,” said Johnson. “He was Indiana Jones with a pen instead of a whip. And he was one of us.”

Shadid’s former editor at The Washington Post, David Hoffman, shared a story illustrating Shadid’s influence even on seasoned reporters. Since he was traveling and reporting from the Middle East, not many in the Post newsroom had ever met Shadid He was scheduled to give a talk during lunch one day at the office, and every reporter left the newsroom and went to listen.

“[He] gave a good talk that day, but the thing that happened next was even more amazing,” said Hoffman. “All of these tough journalists stood up and gave Anthony Shadid a standing ovation.”

Hoffman also shed light on why Anthony Shadid is so influential for journalists and the public today.

“In a way that’s exceedingly rare, Anthony fulfilled our ambitions for what journalism should be,” said Hoffman. “Many of us spend our entire careers frustrated to how difficult it can be to get the truth on the page.”

So what is the legacy of Anthony Shadid? How will people remember him and his work? The speakers all addressed this question, having all been personally changed by Shadid.

Mark (Pitsch) used the word humble, and I think it is the word I will always attach to him in every memory that I have of him for the rest of my life,” said Culver.

“I miss him, but I know that his brilliance will light the path of future generations,” said Hoffman. “And I know there are going to be many, many more Anthony Shadids because of it.”

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