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Shadid, Chronicler of Arab Spring, Dies

NYT readers’ eyes in the region have closed

Marc Tracy
February 17, 2012
Anthony Shadid.(Steven Senne/AP)
Anthony Shadid.(Steven Senne/AP)

When Getty photographer Chris Hondros died last year covering the Libyan civil war, it felt oddly close to Tablet Magazine’s home, because—although Hondros was not employed by Tablet and probably didn’t even know what Tablet was—his work graced more than a dozen Tablet articles and blog posts; he was a Tablet contributor.

The two-time Pulitzer-winning New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, who died yesterday of an asthma attack while covering the Syrian civil war, was not in any sense a Tablet contributor. Yet he was also indispensable to our coverage. More specifically, at least to my coverage: I relied upon his unmatched reporting, unbelievable prolificness (and, as a colleague’s appreciation noted, his many articles often ran long), and outrageously good style to humbly blog from Manhattan about the important events of the Arab Spring, leaning on and pointing to Shadid’s reporting on Egypt; on Syria (over and over); on Turkey; and even on Israel.

This is why I scrutinized the new New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief to what in most contexts would be an absurd extent: these reporters—and particularly Times reporters—are our eyes and ears in the region. That Shadid was the best of them only highlights this truth. The lead to his story that served as a postmortem to the final days of President Mubarak’s rule in Egypt went: “CAIRO — One revolution ended Friday. Another may soon begin.” That was almost exactly a year ago.

Largest condolences, of course, go to his family—his wife and his two children. Next largest condolences to his friends. But we can also recognize that he was so important and so good at what he did that our collective understanding of the world has been impoverished by his loss. If you are measured by the hole you leave behind when you are gone, then Shadid was a giant.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.