Anthony Shadid's Insatiable Curiosity

My old colleague Bobby Ghosh remembers Anthony Shadid, who sadly passed yesterday, in Syria. Bobby recalls one instance when Tony came for dinner at the TIME bureau in Iraq:


The next morning, I learned that while the rest of us were exchanging war stories, Tony had spent much of the evening chatting with our drivers and security guards, asking them about life in their neighborhoods, what their kids were studying in school, and what they were hearing from relatives in other parts of the country. Our staff marveled at his keen interest in the minutiae of their lives. Raed, our security chief, said, "He was more interested in why my son is studying than I am." 

But that was Tony's great gift: his insatiable curiosity about -- and deep empathy for -- ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His journalism was shot through with this quality, enriched by it. Yes, he interviewed heads of state and talking heads, but it was his familiarity with the lives of Iraqis, Lebanese, Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians that made him the best journalist operating in the Middle East.

Before I started writing professionally, I assumed that those qualities--deep empathy and insatiable curiosity--were essential to a career in journalism. They are not. Indeed, they are quite rare. And this is a real loss.

Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Global

From This Author

Just In