Two sad events in the news this last week.
The death of NY Times correspondent Anthony Shadid is a cause of real sorrow for anyone who has wanted to get a nuanced portrait of the true human cost of the conflict in the Middle East. Mr Shadid who was reporting in Syria at the time died after an asthma attack as he and his colleague, photographer Tyler Hicks were following smugglers from Syria to Turkey. The obituaries written by colleagues and students show a genuine love and admiration for an engaging and kind man who was also a gifted journalist. To read his work, was to recognize him as the old school kind of journalist who insisted on being present at the scene, rather than the kind of “rooftop journalism” practised by today’s broadcast media stars. He worked to speak from the perspective of the ordinary man and woman, the chief victims of the conflict.
And here in The Netherlands, the news of the death of writer, intellectual and opinion maker Anil Ramdas was also a cause for sadness overshadowed immediately by the news of Prince Friso’s skiing accident. Unlike the obituaries of Mr Shadid, Mr Ramdas has not been as kindly treated by his national media who have often chosen to highlight his professional failures and his problems with drink.
Anil Ramdas, born in Surinam, was of Indian descent, and came to know India as a student and later as a Delhi based reporter to criticism that he was sending back reports from there that seemed to come more from a sociologist than a journalist. Ramdas was portrayed as having struggled between his three identities - Surinamese, Indian, and Dutch - made to feel like an outsider in all of them. His family said he had a “self chosen death” on his 54th birthday.
Their writing is their legacy.