Editor’s note: Daniel C. Sneider, a lecturer of East Asian studies at Stanford University, former foreign correspondent and friend of Mike Shuster’s, was the Moscow bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor in the 1990s when Shuster was based there. He offers this appreciation:
Mike Shuster, an award-winning foreign and diplomatic correspondent for National Public Radio, died Monday. During more than three decades as a reporter and an editor, his work spanned the world and made him an eyewitness to some of the most momentous events in modern history.
Shuster died at home in Southern California of complications from Parkinson’s disease, his family said. He was 76.
Shuster had a long career, beginning in the early 1970s in Africa, where he spent five months covering the Angolan civil war and traveled throughout the region, working then for Liberation News Service.
He joined NPR in 1980 and filed more than 3,000 stories, with coverage spanning both Gulf wars, conflicts in Israel and Palestine, the Bosnian civil war and the war in Kosovo, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
As a senior diplomatic correspondent, Shuster covered issues of nuclear nonproliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim. He notably traveled frequently to Iran — at least seven times after 2004 — where he was one of the few American correspondents to spend extended time.
Shuster began his career with NPR in New York. In a now famous case, his reporting on the trial of notorious mobster John Gotti led to a historic court decision relaxing the FCC ban on the broadcast of expletives after Shuster insisted that listeners needed to hear Gotti’s tirades recorded in an FBI wiretap.
He was sent to London in 1989. From there, he covered the unification of Germany, from the announcement of the opening of the Berlin Wall to the establishment of a single currency for that country, which he later described as “the most extraordinary story in my lifetime.”
He traveled to Germany monthly during this time to trace the revolution, from people’s euphoria over the freedom to travel, to the decline of the Communist Party, to the newly independent country’s first free elections.
During his time in London, Shuster also covered the first Gulf War.
He had the opportunity to cover another historic moment when he moved to Moscow in 1991 as the NPR bureau chief. He covered the end of Soviet communism, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the newly independent states. He traveled from the far reaches of Russia to civil war-ravaged Tajikistan.
As a diplomatic correspondent, Shuster shaped NPR’s coverage of the Middle East, including coverage of the second Gulf War and the war in Iraq. He reported often from Israel, covering the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the pullout from Gaza in 2005 and the second intifada that erupted in 2000.
He traveled frequently to Iran, beginning in 2004, including on-the-scene reporting of the Iranian election of 2009 and the massive protests that followed. His 2007 weeklong series, “The Partisans of Ali,” explored the history of the Shi’ite faith and politics, providing a rare, comprehensive look at the complexities of the Islamic religion and its impact on the Western world.
Shuster won numerous awards for his reporting. He was part of the NPR News team to be recognized with a Peabody Award for coverage of September 11 and its aftermath. He was also part of the NPR News teams to receive Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for coverage of the Iraq War (2007 and 2004); September 11 and the war in Afghanistan (2003); and the Gulf War (1992).
In 2003, Shuster was honored for his series “The Middle East: A Century of Conflict” with an Overseas Press Club Lowell Thomas Award and First in Documentary Reporting from the National Headliner Awards. He also received an honorable mention from the Overseas Press Club in 1999, and the SAJA Journalism Award in 1998.
Following his retirement from NPR in 2013, Shuster became a freelance producer and writer, creating The Great War Project, a website, blog and podcast that recounted the history of World War I and its impact a century after its outbreak. He served on the President’s World War I Centennial Commission. He worked on several television series projects and was a senior fellow at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations.
Shuster is survived by his longtime partner, Stephanie Boyd, his brother Lee Shuster, and his nephew Cory Shuster and niece Amanda Shuster.
He was born on July 7, 1947, in Philadelphia, the son of Morris Merle Shuster and Beatrice Ritta Gerber Shuster. He attended Williams College in Massachusetts.