By Cory Lesniak
On November 22, 2012, a journalist by the name of James Foley was kidnapped with his translator in northwest Syria on his way to the Turkish border. The kidnappers were part of a Middle Eastern group called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, ISIS claims religious authority over all Muslims across the world and seeks to bring Muslims under its control, beginning with those in Syria and Iraq. It has even been confirmed that the long-reigning terror organization Al Qaeda believe ISIS is “too extreme.”
Foley was a freelance journalist working for GlobalPost at the time of his kidnapping. Two years later, an attempt to rescue Foley and others kidnapped by ISIS was made; however, the mission failed when the hostages were relocated. On August 19, 2014, ISIS uploaded a video on YouTube labeled “A Message to America.” It was the video of the apparent decapitation of Foley. The next day, Foley’s parents received heart-breaking news: The United States National Security Council confirmed it was their son in the video.
Foley began his career as a teacher in Arizona and Illinois, working for Teach For America before traveling to the Middle East to cover the conflict. “Conflict zones can be covered safely,” James Foley told students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2011. “This can be done. But you have to be very careful.”
It is easy to forget, as a reader and viewer, the skill and dedication of journalists. It is easy to forget the risk that is sometimes necessary to get the story. We read, we watch and we move on with our busy lives. We don’t stop to ask how sources were cultivated, how facts were checked or how videos and photos were obtained.
The news media world and the adrenalin rush of stories coming in and out and things changing have always captivated me. When I was younger, I woke up and went to bed watching the news on TV while my friends were watching “Hey Arnold.”
Growing up, I watched journalists in the Middle East with military hard hats and bulletproof vests reporting the latest developments on a convoy with gunshots and explosions resonating all around. I looked up to these people. I thought if they could do it, so can I.
Foley was an inspiration to many and for that, I say thank you. Thank you for your charisma, courage and dedication to the profession. Thank you to all who continue to put their lives on the line to bring the news home to us each and every day.
James Foley, and others like him, are the reason I am sitting here writing this story. He, like many others, risked his life to get the untold story of people trapped in turmoil. Journalists like Foley motivate and inspire me to find the facts, even if it means risking everything. Journalism is not only a skill but also a passion. This is what I was born to do. I only wish to be a fraction of the journalist Foley was.