Discuss as:

NBC's Richard Engel: NYT reporter Anthony Shadid was 'absolutely brilliant'

Willie Geist, Mike Barnicle and the Morning Joe panel remember New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, who died Thursday in Syria of an apparent asthma attack.

Anthony Shadid, the New York Times correspondent who died in Syria on Thursday, was better than the rest of us.  He wasn’t the fastest to a story, or the biggest daredevil or the most technical with a satellite phone.  Sure, he was good at all those things.  But he was absolutely brilliant at something else.  Shadid could hear the story.

He could feel it in the tips of his fingers.  He could do what may be impossible.  He could make war subtle.

This is what I mean.  During the often overlooked, ferociously dangerous 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, reporters in southern Lebanon generally rushed to the bombing sites.  The faster we got there, the fresher and more compelling our stories and pictures would be.  And there were incredibility compelling stories.  In the first three weeks of the conflict, Israel dropped as much tonnage of explosives on southern Lebanon as it used in the 1973 Mideast war.

NYT: Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Shadid dies in Syria

Hezbollah fired rockets indiscriminately into Israeli cities, driving thousands into shelters.  We rushed and ran and sometimes even dodged and the world watched and read.  Anthony covered it differently.  He’d go out in the morning and find some tiny village, tucked away on a hillside, where none of us thought to go.  He’d find his story in the details, not the fireballs.  It takes a sensitive ear to do that.  War is a loud place, full of emotions, explosions, gore, fatigue, pity, outrage and rage.  But Anthony managed to pick out the quiet notes, and hear the melody playing sotto voce under the cacophony.

I say "us" because there is an "us" in the business, which is really more of a life than a career.  There is a small – tragically, dwindling – brotherhood and sisterhood of reporters who cover conflict, specifically conflict in the Middle East.  Anthony was one of our founding members.  When I first moved to Cairo in 1996, the first person I was told to look up was Anthony.  “He’s got a good feeling of what’s going on over there,” I was well advised.  Anthony and I were together in Baghdad during the 2003 US bombing.  Baghdad for all of 'us' was a defining period, an extended nightmare of car bombings, flag ceremonies, kidnappings and military acronyms.  I last saw Anthony a few months ago.  He looked great.  He was in a good place.

Rachel Maddow reports the sad news of the passing of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid.

He was relaxed and happy.  We were at the airport in Tunisia.  We’d just covered a year of the Arab Spring.  It was different from all those years in Baghdad.  It was interesting.  It was complicated.  It was big history.  It needed a subtle ear.  It was perfect for Anthony.

It was his time.  I am so sorry his time was cut short.  I’ll miss his voice.  I’ll miss his compassion.  There’s so much more to reporting than just bullets, bombs, rebels and ballots, and nobody knew that more than Anthony.  Rest in peace, brother.

More from msnbc.com and NBC News: