In 2012, a war correspondent named Anthony Shadid died in Syria on assignment for the New York Times. A life like his defies summary in a few sentences: He won the Pulitzer Prize (twice) for his coverage of the Iraq War. He was shot by a sniper in Ramallah. He was kidnapped and tortured in Libya.
War reporting is serious business. We don’t pretend to be doing anything nearly as consequential as what Mr. Shadid gave his life for. But that life has been a powerful reminder to us of the critical importance of witness in storytelling. Bill Keller, the former executive of the New York Times, wrote in tribute:
“First, he understood the basic rule of reporting: always go. He went to places that were inaccessible and dangerous and miserable—not as a daredevil or adrenaline junkie, not recklessly, often reluctantly, always with the most meticulous and careful planning—but he knew you had to be there. You had to see it.”
As storytellers, we believe in the power of observation. Don’t rely on second-hand information. Don’t simply call someone. And certainly don’t just read about it on the Internet.