What Anthony Shadid gave American journalism on the Arab world

As'ad AbuKhalil put up a note that Nir Rosen sent him about Anthony Shadid — it's very true about, great journalism aside, the function that Shadid played in the US media over the last decade:

"his death is not only a catastrophic personal tragedy for his family or friends (of which i was one and i'm still in shock from it), its a huge setback in a struggle we are all part of. nobody else in the mainstream, let alone the new york times, had the clout to humanize arabs or let them speak directly to white people in the US, and to even challenge, if subtly, the dominant narrative, not only by what he wrote, but by what he didnt write, because he did not have to always refer to zionists or white "experts" for quotes and analysis. and his existence also allowed other journalists in the mainstream a bit more space, it showed the value of having somebody like him and made it easier for great journalists like leila fadel, or hannah allam, to do their job. and he had the imprimatur of the pulitzer and other prizes that protected him from criticism. i dont think we can fully appreciate what his loss will do to the way the arab world is reported and understood and as a result dealt with as well, but he is irreplaceable for us and it marks the end of an era".
A few years ago, before Shadid joined the NYT, a friend who is of Arab origin was interviewed by them for a Middle East correspondent position. The friend was told, "we want our own Anthony Shadid". The NYT saw the quality of his coverage and understood that affinity with the people of the region (and language skills) were assets, alongside his talent.
But when they did finally manage to get him, Shadid was not domesticated by the NYT. He domesticated them, expanding the subtleness and scope of his coverage in an area where the NYT has an uneven record (to say the least) and is under extreme scrutiny. And as Nir says, he paved the way for others to follow.


Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.