A Caring, Insightful Journalist and Teacher is Lost

Dear friends,

I have not used this space to comment on individuals, but usually on issues and forces shaping our world, from global to local.

Oklahoma City native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid

Oklahoma City native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid visited the University of Central Oklahoma in Oct. 2010 to share his experiences while reporting in Iraq and conduct a writing workshop for journalism and creative writing majors. UCO photo by Daniel Smith.

But I must offer my personal and deep condolences to the family, friends, and devotees of Anthony Shadid. This award-winning global journalist and gifted chronicler of our times has been lauded by far more knowledgable commenters than me, but I must tell you how I will miss his personal reporting from the Middle East on issues and on people caught in the maelstrom of history.

With his Oklahoma connections, all of us in the state should realize that a light illuminating the corners of a region that impacts our lives has gone dark. I am honored to have met him on one of his visits to his native state and to his family. I earnestly tried never to miss one of his reports from the region as he deeply understood the multiple variables at play in any event in the Middle East. He truly was a teacher, as are all true journalists, as he helped us sort fact from flash at this distance. Read some of his work, one of his books, and you will not see the Middle East, its challenges and its people in the same way again.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it for all of us: “Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.”

Anthony challenged us to leave the stereotypes behind and to meet and understand the living, breathing, hoping, caring, searching-for-a-normal-life Middle East, amid the charts, graphs, the stats and the posturing.

He understood the forces erupting to re-contour the region dubbed crazy and incomprehensible. He offered clarity and a sense of the popular heart and will as well as the political, social, cultural and confessional forces unleashed over the past year and for two decades before.

So I say “shukran khteir”‘, thank you, Anthony Shadid, for making me and us smarter, wiser and, hopefully, more tolerant. You left us far too soon. We will continue to look for light and possibility and peace in a part of our world once known simply as the Holy Land. You set a standard for insight and excellence we can only hope those that follow you will emulate.

Don Betz