Slice of Life Challenge #5: Writing to Bear Witness

The Slice of Life March Challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers 
 As a writing teacher, I want my kids to know that there are many reasons we write, just as there are many types of writing we need to figure out how to do, and do well.  We write for pleasure, we write to tell stories, we write to inform, and we write to persuade…but this Sunday’s New York Times made me think about another reason we write: to bear witness.  Several weeks ago, the Times’ chief Middle East correspondent Anthony Shadid died  during a daring mission to cross the border into Syria and report on the latest of the  revolutions that began with the Arab SpringShadid was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who had covered the Middle East for many years, and his incisive writing was always a pleasure to read. 
 I remember many times thinking to myself even as I was reading about far-off events in Baghdad and Ramallah – he must have put himself in real danger to be able to tell this story.  And so it was when I read that he had been captured and gone missing in Libya, I assumed the worst…but Shadid escaped and lived to write about his experiences, which he later talked about on NPR’s Fresh Air:

In just about every photograph I’ve seen of Shadid, he has a notebook in his hand – he is often surrounded by people, and they seem just as eager to tell him their stories, as he is to record what they say.  He carried his form of a writer’s notebook everywhere, and his writing speaks to the fact that he sketched out more than just facts – his articles are alive with a sense of place and the personalities and feelings of all those he came across:


Today’s article was written by the photographer who partnered with Shadid on most of his reporting, Tyler Hicks.  Apart from being a journalistic account of the events during which Shadid died, it is also a testament to those writers among us who write to bear witness – to tell us of events we need to know, about how people are affected by those events, about why we need to pay attention.

Anthony Shadid leaves behind a wife and two young children;  the memoir  “House of Stone”,  which he completed just before his death is to be released soon.  I look forward to receiving my copy, and being able to take pleasure in his writing once again.


11 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge #5: Writing to Bear Witness

  1. I like that you noticed (and included) a photo of Shahid with his notebook.Writing to bear witness… it's such a profound thing that is so important to teach children if we want them to truly understand how to use their voice for the greater good.

  2. I remember watching Richard Engel's documentary on the life of foreign correspondents and I am in awe of them and their obsession to get me the news. Thanks so much for sharing his piece from NPR. I want that memoir too,Bonnie

  3. I saw a piece about him on PBS & was truly saddened by the loss, although I didn't see much of him as you have Tara. Thank you for expanding our thoughts of writing. It is certainly of importance to write for others as Khalid did. Thanks also for the book note. I didn't know about it.

  4. This piece is refreshing albeit about the death of a great writer. Your feelings for this writer are very clear as are your feelings about writing. I love that you can write like this and still have your reader access pictures and audio. It shows me you are not afraid that newer technologies will take away from your piece but instead…enhance it.

  5. You are right. Writing to Bear Witness is an important reason to write. What a great loss. Your writing helped me learn about a great writer I didn't know about. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for this. I was so saddened by Shahid's death. He had done such excellent work as a journalist. His voice will be missed. Bearing witness is such a important reason for writing. It's what we're doing with our slices, too: bearing witness to the value of the "everyday-ness" of our lives.

  7. "Writing to bear witness" could be a strong motivator for some students who feel writing is not that important What would we do without those who write to bear witness?Thank you for calling attention to this most important reason to write. Well written tribute.

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