Anthony Shadid: Oklahoma’s Pulitzer Prize Winner

The American Democracy Project at UCO welcomed Oklahoma City native Anthony Shadid to speak in conjunction with their celebration of Constitution Day recently. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author is a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

Shadid covered the War on Terror from Iraq, bringing an eyewitness account of the conflict and the “unintended consequences” that emerged since it all began in 2003. In 2004, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and won again in 2010 for his coverage of the Iraq War. He is the author of two books, Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats, and the New Politics of Islam (2002) as well as Night Draws Near (2005).

He spoke to a crowd of Edmond residents and UCO students about the Iraqi people’s suffering and provided a glimpse into the inner workings of a culture that was turned upside down at Saddam Hussein’s removal from power, their vulnerability to extremists and finally, the rebuilding of a nation.

Shadid’s “just the facts” honest approach to reporting mingle with the gift of a comp-assionate storyteller. Director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Dr. Terry Clark, who is also a professor of journalism at UCO, said he was proud to see Shadid restore a little faith in journalism.

“It makes me proud to be an American, but also a journalist because he is so dedicated to telling real people’s stories. He shows us how Americans and journalists can try to tell the whole story about what’s going on and how to care about people regardless of their religions, politics, or skin color,” said Clark. “He’s what’s good about American journalism.”

Shadid’s philosophy of reporting proves refreshing to those who fear bias in the media. “My job as a journalist is to try to understand in the most powerful way what is going on around me,” he said. “I’m proud to be an American, but I am first and foremost a journalist who tries to understand things as they are, not the way they should be. I’m not out to prove a point or make a statement but understand the reality as it is. Journalism helps us understand, rather than convince us of one point or another.”

As a UCO student and President of the American Democracy Project, Amanda Gamble was impressed when Shadid concluded his presentation by answering questions from the crowd about the war’s beginning, causes, and the future of foreign politics in Iraq as it relates to America’s interest and responsibilities.

“Anthony Shadid is a person that people can relate to and see another side of things first hand. It was a great opportunity to be able to ask questions and get honest feedback,” Gamble said. “His visit is an indication that we’re able to recognize the importance of understanding international affairs and it’s a step forward for UCO and Edmond.”

Shadid also talked about the influence that his home state had on his work. “Editors joke around with me about being from Oklahoma … one of them said, ‘You know, writers that come from Los Angeles or New York don’t convey a sense of the real’,” said Shadid. “I got to grow up in a cross section of the country which is such a diverse state – a state I’m proud of – that has such a proud history. I’ve always thought it influenced my writing in some way.”

Catching up with Shadid anytime in the near future, might be difficult. Next year, he and his wife, who also works for The New York Times, will be stationed in Beirut. However, no matter where his reporting may take him, he will keep a close eye on the country that left a mark on his heart. “I keep going back to Baghdad and I don’t want to let go of that story. I was there in the beginning during the invasion and I want to stay there until the end of withdrawal next year,” he said.

Professor Clark believes Shadid’s work is a reflection of the quality in Oklahoma media. “We have some fantastic journalists in Oklahoma and they do some of the best writing and photography in the world, though not many of them are household names. It may not be optimistic times for traditional media, but journalism is alive and well.”

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