3:43 pm Feb. 17, 2012
The web is bursting with encomiums today for New York Times reporter and Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, who died at the age of 43 on Thursday of an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
Some of Shadid's friends and colleagues, meanwhile, have started coming together in person to remember the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a fearless foreign correspondent whose willingness to risk life and limb reporting from the darkest corners of the Middle East was amplified by the deftly crafted prose he so often contributed to the Times' front page.
Times staffers gathered in the third-floor atrium at 12:30 this afternoon for a brief tribute.
For many, it must have seemed a heartbreaking moment of déjà vu: 11 months earlier, they'd assembled in the same spot under much happier circumstances to celebrate the homecoming of Shadid and three other Times journalists who'd just returned from a week in captivity in Libya, where they came close to death while chronicling the uprising against Muammar Khadafy.
Today's gathering, which lasted about 15 minutes, was a somber affair, and one that was well attended, according to people who were present.
Executive editor Jill Abramson sat beside foreign editor Joe Kahn and former foreign editor Susan Chira, surrounded by members of the newsroom, who snaked around cubicles and the railings of the floor above.
Abramson read two paragraphs of a remembrance written by her predecessor, Bill Keller, who could not be there. The entire piece will be posted online.
Chira talked about how she and Keller had courted Shadid to join the paper from The Washington Post back in 2009, a move that was considered a huge coup for the Times. She also read some email exchanges she'd had with him, as did Kahn, who recited some thoughts from Shadid about the assignment that had taken him into Syria, where he squeezed through a barbed-wire fence to enter the war-torn country.
"It's just nuts," Shadid wrote to Kahn. "I feel like no one there is telling the truth now. We have to get the details."
After each of the editors had spoken, the silence was pierced by a single person who began to applaud. The rest of the audience, including Abramson, Chira and Kahn, followed suit. Many were crying.
"It was very moving," said someone who was there.
Abramson and Kahn left this afternoon for Beirut, Capital has learned, where Shadid, an American of Lebanese descent, lived with his wife and two children, and where arrangements are expected to be made.
Shadid will have one last byline in the Times, possibly as early as this weekend, according to people familiar with the paper's plans. His most recent article before that, a piece out of Tripoli, was in the Feb. 9 edition.
UPDATE: The story, "In Government, Tunisia’s Islamists Put to the Test," is now online. It will be on A1 in the Saturday edition.
Another tribute to Shadid is planned for 6 p.m. this evening in the World Room of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, where the Pulitzers Shadid won in 2004 and 2010 were announced.
"We will show some of his work and friends and others will speak about him," said Sree Sreenivasan, the journalism school's dean of student affairs. (The individual speakers had not yet been confirmed, he said.)
Someone who was close to Shadid said friends of the late reporter had come together today in cities including Beirut, Kabul and Baghdad.
Shadid himself had been scheduled to appear at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side on March 27, the day his new memoir was to be released, kicking off a nationwide book tour. The Times reported that Shadid's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has moved the book's publication date up to Feb. 28., and "said it was hoping to recruit friends and colleagues of Mr. Shadid’s to take his place for scheduled media appearances." An events manager for the Upper West Side store could not comment on whether the March 27 event would proceed that way.
Beyond that, a Times spokesperson said no other official memorial events had been planned. But more are expected.
"Certainly there will be time for other events in the weeks ahead to mourn his passing and celebrate his life," said Abramson in a note to staff earlier today.
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