The late Anthony Shadid was one of the most honored foreign correspondents in modern U.S. journalism. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the U.S. presence in Iraq, in 2004 while Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post and in 2010 while Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times, where he worked until his untimely death in 2012, while on assignment in Syria. He was also a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer and received numerous other awards for his reporting. This study group will be a hands-on, workshop-style approach to learning from veteran Middle East journalist Rami Khouri’s archival research in Shadid’s personal papers now deposited at the American University of Beirut and interviews with over 50 of Shadid’s colleagues. Participants will learn about key elements in Shadid’s “narrative reporting” style – employing techniques of narrative non-fiction writing to cover foreign affairs. Through discussion of narrative reporting craft, analysis of texts by Shadid and other outstanding writers, and producing and reviewing each other’s reporting, participants will learn why and how narrative reporting works, and how to benefit from the legacy of Shadid’s craft. The group will also discuss the implications of Shadid’s style for other sectors of society today beyond journalism, including diplomacy, education, commerce, religion, and civil society engagement.


The study group is open by application to all Harvard ID holders, as well as invited journalists or writers in the Boston area. Applicants will be asked to submit a statement of interest on their previous professional or academic experience with and/or career interest in narrative reporting, particularly but not exclusively in the Middle East. Applications are open at the Middle East Initiative website – hks.harvard.edu/middleeast, or by clicking this link. If you have any questions, please email chris_mawhorter@hks.harvard.edu.

  • Structure

    The group will meet weekly for four sessions of two hours each, on Wednesdays from 12:00-2:00pm, starting Wednesday, September 25 and ending Wednesday, October 16. Each session will consist of a short introductory talk from Rami Khouri, before opening up for open discussion and in-class reporting-writing exercises. Students will have short readings to do at home, as well as two or three short writing assignments to be discussed in class, limited to no more than 90 minutes per week of “homework.”

  • Materials

    Students will be provided with printed copies of short readings and training materials, as well as links to further resources. The following book is recommended for students to read: Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University (1st Edition) edited by Mark Kramer & Wendy Call [ISBN-13: 978-0452287556] – visit https://nieman.harvard.edu/books/telling-true-stories/ for purchasing options.

  • Study Group Events Calendar

    Session One: What is “Narrative Reporting” and Why Use It?
    Wednesday, September 25, 12:00-2:00pm

    Session one will begin with a short lecture to outline the key elements of Shadid’s craft and why it is called “narrative reporting”, based on Khouri’s extensive research, followed by a discussion of what defines narrative or creative non-fiction writing, and why the human brain responds so well to this kind of story-telling-based writing. Then the class will analyze two short Shadid articles and finish with an open discussion.

    Session Two: Telling the Stories of Ordinary People to Address Societal Concerns
    Wednesday, October 2, 12:00-2:00pm

    Session two will begin with a short lecture to outline narrative writing elements used by other quality journalists, followed by class analysis of two longer Shadid texts and two other writers’ texts to stress the central key to success in this kind of writing, which is deeply conveying the sentiments and struggles of ordinary people. After open discussion on these texts, there will be a short in-class reporting-writing exercise to show how the ordinary in everyday life can reflect important dimensions of any society’s bigger concerns or challenges.

    Session Three: The Art of Writing it All Down
    Wednesday, October 9, 12:00-2:00pm

    Session three will begin with a short lecture on how Shadid and other quality writers define, shape, and organize a story, after reporting the facts they need to write it, highlighting critical elements in quality writing, including a detailed outline, a clearly defined single main theme or message, a strong lead and ending, the characters chosen and their dialog used, and identifying and conveying scenes. The class will then analyze why and how Shadid and other narrative reporters’ texts reflect the artistic forms used by painters, poets, novelists, photographers, documentary and feature filmmakers, dramatists, short story writers, and other artists.

    Session Four: Beyond Reporting: Why Narrative Craft Matters Today
    Wednesday, October 16, 12:00-2:00pm

    The final session will explore the relevance of Shadid’s foreign affairs reporting to other dimensions of life beyond journalism, including foreign and domestic policy-making. It will also ask why it matters to us and others today that Shadid was probably the single most effective communicator in modern times between ordinary Arabs and ordinary Americans who read his texts.