The world lost one of its greatest storytellers Thursday when New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
Shadid, a Daily Cardinal and UW-Madison alumnus, threw himself into the most tumultuous Middle East conflicts for nearly 20 years.
Most recently, he bounced seemingly non-stop from revolution to revolution as his stories transformed the front page of The New York Times into a looking glass for Western readers into the Arab Spring.
Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, defined journalist. He first appeared in the doorway of The Daily Cardinal office on a summer day in the late '80s carrying an army rucksack nearly as tall as him. He told the editor he had just moved up from Oklahoma to attend UW-Madison and to write for The Daily Cardinal.
He had just gotten off the bus. He hadn't found an apartment yet. Everything he owned was on his back. But, he was ready for his first assignment.
Sacrifice and uncertainty in Shadid's life would not stay within the walls of The Daily Cardinal office. Indeed, they would only escalate.
In 2002, he was shot in the back in Ramallah while reporting for the Boston Globe in the West Bank.
He told The Daily Cardinal last December that as he bled onto the curb thousands of miles from home, thinking he was going to die, he asked himself, "Was this worth it?"
Apparently, he decided it was. He took some time to rehabilitate and was right back on the roads of the world's most dangerous countries, pen in hand.
Then last March, Shadid and three fellow journalists were kidnapped by government security forces in Libya.
While shaken, this also could not stop the fearless journalist.
Shadid continued to cover Middle Eastern conflicts until he died in eastern Syria Thursday.
The Daily Cardinal wears his alumni status as a badge of honor and his success is an inspiration to all aspiring journalists on staff.
The question: "Where is Shadid now anyway?" is not uncommon in the office. Whatever the answer, reporters' eyes glaze over as they imagine themselves interviewing protesters in the middle of the night in Tahrir Square before rushing to Libya while the Arab Spring catches fire.
Shadid could enter a war-shaken community and with his fluent Arabic and friendly disposition extract the small stories that helped people to understand the implications of large-scale conflicts.
"I think the best journalism is sometimes about footnotes-when we write small to say something big," Shadid said on a visit here in December of 2010.
Like the footnotes he so valued, Shadid may have been only one journalist in the massive media world today. But his commitment to fearless reporting says something big. It encourages aspiring journalists that despite the uncertain future of newspapers, there is still a place for hard-working reporters who throw themselves fearlessly into any situation to share the world's most critical stories through the written word.