How One Texas Journalist Went From Reporter to Prisoner

The journey of one Texas journalist, from the behind the desk to missing in action.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 23, 2015 1:29 pm

For Austin Tice, the journey to Syria was very much like a calling.

In some ways, becoming a journalist in the most dangerous place on Earth was something that had been building up in Austin Tice since he was a little kid –  wary of  the self-satisfaction of life in the 21st century and pining to be a part of something bigger – something more alive.

Reporter Sonia Smith calls it “the road to Damascus.” That’s the title of her profile of Austin Tice featured in the new issue of Texas Monthly.

Smith describes a young man who enters the military and dabbles in law school before having a mid-deployment epiphany – that he wanted to be a war photographer.

“He’s the kind of person who wants to be at the center of the action,” she says. “He really found that may have been the thing he was searching for all these years.”

Smith says she thinks Tice’s experience as a Marine gave him the sense that he could anticipate the risks of reporting in a war zone, which emboldened him.

“He was very open with people that he met just about who he was and about his background,” she says. “The Syrians that I met there who had known him – they tended to describe him as being too open.”

She says Tice was rattled by the destruction he saw over there and he was genuinely moved by things he witnessed.

“It probably only strengthened his resolve to want to tell these stories and to show the world,” Smith says, “Both the suffering he was seeing and the beauty along the way.”

Hear more in the audio player above.