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At Shadid memorial, better protection of journalists urged

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Buddy Shadid cried as he spoke at a memorial service for his son, Anthony, in Oklahoma City Saturday. Anthony Shadid, pictured at right in foreground in the photo behind his father, died last month in Syria of an apparent asthma attack.

OKLAHOMA CITY - The cousin of the late New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid challenged editors Saturday to do more to protect reporters working in dangerous situations, telling mourners at a memorial service they must ensure they have what they need to survive.

“There is a danger for future journalists of focusing on bravery and that many will feel that to get ahead, to be the next Anthony Shadid, they must take risks,’’ Ed Shadid said.

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“I would ask that they consider that the danger for journalists like Anthony and others like him is that their commitment and their history of bravery could be exploited by editors and management who are under their own pressures to meet production goals and achieve awards.’’

Ed Shadid was among a crowd of more than 1,000 people who gathered at the Civic Center in Anthony Shadid’s native Oklahoma City for the memorial. The longtime correspondent in the Middle East for the Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and the Associated Press died last month at age 43 of an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.

“Anthony, my son, my hero, my love, my golden boy, I’ve had nightmares for several years now that somebody would call me and say that Anthony was hurt,’’ Shadid’s father, Buddy, told the crowd through tears.

Since November, eight journalists have been killed while working in Syria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. American war reporter Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed during a rocket attack Feb. 22 in the city of Homs.

On Friday, two French journalists, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, returned home after an escape from Homs where they were trapped for nine days. British photographer Paul Conroy, who was injured in the attack that killed Colvin and Ochlik, also escaped.

Ed Shadid said that in past conversations with his cousin, Anthony had told him that the industry needs to make a comprehensive assessment of what precautions it could take to better protect journalists. That includes making sure journalists have the proper medical equipment and training while on assignment, he said.

New York Times photojournalist Tyler Hicks, who was working with Shadid in Syria and carried his body from the country after his death, said journalists prepare themselves for violence during such assignments and take items such as medical kits and tourniquets with them.

In an article published Saturday in the Times, Hicks described how Shadid had an attack as smugglers with horses led them out of Syria. “It turned out the real danger was not the weapons but possibly the horses. Anthony was allergic. He did not know how badly.’’

“It was nature that took him, not hostile action,’’ Hicks said after the memorial. “In Anthony’s case, there wasn’t anything that could have prepared us for what happened.’’

Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor at the Times, said Saturday the safety of journalists has long been a focus of the newspaper, especially in the past decade. “Everyone at The New York Times is thinking about anything we can do to help our journalists do their work safely,’’ Chira said. “There is always more to be done.’’

David Hoffman, Shadid’s former editor at The Washington Post, said he tells reporters their first responsibility is to themselves and to be available for tomorrow’s story. The newspaper where Shadid won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and 2010 has devoted attention and resources to helping journalists deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome in the past 10 years, he said. “We’ve already invested a lot of time and attention to reporters’ safety,’’ Hoffman said. “This requires us to double and triple our efforts.’’

Those who spoke Saturday remembered Shadid as modest, humble, funny, brilliant, an explorer, a perfectionist and a “citizen of the world,’’ who had respect for many faiths. He loved telling stories of people and explained places including Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria with authority to his readers, and enjoyed his family, Scotch, the Green Bay Packers and playing poker.

“Everyone I talked to, the last words were ‘I love you,’ ’’ said Shadid’s brother, Damon. “Anthony built those bridges and he at least was able to leave without us having to regret animosity, and fighting and bickering that just doesn’t matter anymore.

“I think that he would want everyone here to know that once you lose somebody none of it matters. It takes one second - one second - and none of it matters anymore.’’

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