NEW YORK - Anthony Shadid, a prize-winning reporter whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, yesterday while on assignment in eastern Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey.
Shadid, 43, had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other armed elements of the resistance to the government of President Bashar Assad.
The Syrian government, which tightly controls foreign journalists’ activities in the country, had not been informed of his assignment by the Times.
The exact circumstances of Shadid’s death and his precise location inside Syria when it happened were not immediately clear.
But Hicks said that Shadid, who had asthma and had carried medication with him, began to show symptoms early yesterday, and the symptoms escalated into what became a fatal attack. Hicks telephoned his editors at The Times, and a few hours later he was able to take Shadid’s body into Turkey.
The death of Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent who had a wife and two children, abruptly ended one of the most storied resumes in modern American journalism. Fluent in Arabic, with a gifted eye for detail and contextual writing, Shadid captured dimensions of life in the Middle East that many others failed to see.
Those talents won him a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2004 for his coverage of the US invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed, and a second Pulitzer in 2010, also for his Iraq reporting. He has been nominated by the Times for coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Shadid was no stranger to injury, harassment, and arrest. In 2002, while working for the Globe, he was shot in the shoulder while walking on a street in Ramallah. During the tumultuous protests in Cairo last year, Shadid was hounded by President Hosni Mubarak’s police.
Shadid, Hicks, and two other Times journalists, Stephen Farrell and Lynsey Addario, were all arrested by progovernment militias during the conflict in Libya last year and held for more than a week, during which all were physically abused. Their driver, Mohammad Shaglouf, died.
He spoke of the risks he took while reporting in an interview in December with Terry Gross on the NPR program “Fresh Air.’’
“I did feel that Syria was so important, and that story wouldn’t be told otherwise, that it was worth taking risks for,’’ he said.
“Anthony was a model for every journalist and a warm, generous human being,’’ Globe editor Martin Baron said. “In his reporting on the Middle East for us and then for the Washington Post and The New York Times, he displayed a nuanced understanding of the region but also a special sensitivity for ordinary people whose lives and livelihoods were at stake. No one was more committed to getting the full story of the Middle East and, above all, conveying its human dimensions.’’
Deputy managing editor Christine Chinlund, who was the Globe’s foreign editor in 2002, overseeing Shadid, said, “Anthony wanted to be as close to the action as possible, to see firsthand what was happening. He respected the people he wrote about. And he was as good a person as he was a journalist, which is saying a lot.’’
Another former Globe foreign editor, James F. Smith, recalled Shadid’s courageous on-the-ground reporting as a Globe correspondent in Israel and the West Bank during the bloody intifada in 2002, when he was shot on Easter Sunday during street battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters.
“Even though Anthony was badly wounded, he didn’t want to come out of Ramallah unless he was allowed to take a Palestinian colleague with him through the Israeli checkpoint. It took hours to negotiate that passage, and Anthony’s life was at risk, but he wouldn’t come out on his own,’’ Smith said. “It was an example of the kind of courage and concern for others that Anthony showed again and again, throughout his career.’’
Baron said his most vivid memory of Shadid is of him lying in a hospital bed at a Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, recovering from the shooting.
“He appeared remarkably resilient - and astoundingly hopeful of getting back to his work soon. The prognosis was that he would lose a fair amount of mobility in his shoulder. He wasn’t going to let something like that stop him.’’
Shadid won the prestigious George Polk Award in 2002 for his outstanding Mideast coverage.
“Anthony was driven to be there, to see for himself and to tell the stories of ordinary people, in the very best tradition of foreign correspondents,’’ Smith said. “He mastered Arabic so he could talk to people, unfiltered by others. No other reporter covered the region with as much depth of knowledge, cultural awareness, and historical context as Anthony Shadid.’’