When New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid died while clandestinely in Syria this past February, the hagiography passed for the official version of events.
Brave reporter sneaks into repressive state to document Bashir Assad's massacres, dies of acute asthma attack.
Read all about it in the Times.
Jill Abramson, the executive editor, informed the newspaper’s staff Thursday evening in an e-mail. “Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces,” she wrote.IT'S KIND of like The Washington Post of All the President's Men -- only dirtier, dangerouser, and with an Arabic soundtrack.
The assignment in Syria, which Mr. Shadid arranged through a network of smugglers, was fraught with dangers, not the least of which was discovery by the pro-government authorities in Syria. The journey into the country required both Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks to travel at night to a mountainous border area in Turkey adjoining Syria’s Idlib Province, where the demarcation line is a barbed-wire fence. Mr. Hicks said they squeezed through the fence’s lower portion by pulling the wires apart, and guides on horseback met them on the other side. It was on that first night, Mr. Hicks said, that Mr. Shadid suffered an initial bout of asthma, apparently set off by an allergy to the horses, but he recovered after resting.
On the way out a week later, however, Mr. Shadid suffered a more severe attack — again apparently set off by proximity to the horses of the guides, Mr. Hicks said, as they were walking toward the border. Short of breath, Mr. Shadid leaned against a rock with both hands.
“I stood next to him and asked if he was O.K., and then he collapsed,” Mr. Hicks said. “He was not conscious and his breathing was very faint and very shallow.” After a few minutes, he said, “I could see he was no longer breathing.”
Mr. Hicks said he administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 30 minutes but was unable to revive Mr. Shadid.
So now the Pulitzer-winning reporter's cousin has come out with a different story about the story. It sounds less like Ben Bradlee's Post -- as interpreted by Jason Robards, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman -- and more like The Office. With Steve Carrell as Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., fame.
"The phone call the night before he left [Turkey for Syria], there was screaming and slamming on the phone in discussions with editors," Ed Shadid, a cousin to the late reporter, said last night at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's convention in Washington, D.C.DR. EDWARD SHADID'S audience at the ADC gala was shocked, shocked.
"It was at this time that he called his wife and gave his last haunting directive that if anything happens to me I want the world to know the New York Times killed me," Ed Shadid said.
A spokesperson with the ADC confirmed those remarks to POLITICO, which were first made available in a rush transcript provided by ADC member William Youmans, who attended the event. Other attendees also tweeted the remark last night, noting the audience's surprise at Ed Shadid's statements.
In his conversation with editors, Anthony Shadid is said to have complained about logistical issues regarding his transfer into Syria. Ed Shadid also told the audience that his cousin was suffering from health issues prior to his entry into Syria. Anthony Shadid died from an acute asthma attack on February 16.
They oughtn't have been. The nation's newspapers are populated by humans, not superheroes, and they can be derailed by a lot less than Kryptonite. Take mathematics, for example.
And the Times is a lot more like The Office than you -- or they -- would like to think. Your local paper is probably even more Office-ier than that, and it's full of Michael Scotts.
That's life, into which -- like the rain -- the posturers, the excessively ambitious, the unimaginative and the incompetent must occasionally fall. It's not like the movies, and it's not at all the way journalism evangelists spin their own story.
Only sometimes lives hang in the balance. And sometimes journalists die because Robert Redford plans are hatched with Dunder Mifflin forethought.
Don't misunderstand. Journalism is a noble profession, and newspapers (still) are invaluable resources that grease the gears of a modern democratic society. This despite journalists propensity toward epistemological closure, to bandy about a favored catchphrase for our postmodern times.
In other words, believing your own PR (and discounting others') can be hazardous not only to your worldview, but also to your health. You're not Robert Redford. Your editor is not Jason Robards. You work in something that looks more like an accounting office than it does The Front Page . . . or Lou Grant.
But the guy in the cubicle next door just might be Rainn Wilson.