All too often, it takes a searing, unthinkable image to make the public aware of the dangers a unique breed of journalists face daily. On Aug. 19, one hit particularly close to home with the brutal murder of freelance photographer Jim Foley in Syria at the hands of ISIS, after being held captive for nearly two years.
Jim’s work, like that of his colleagues’, appeared across the globe, as photos, videos or dispatches, describing the horrors of combat, the broken lives of civilians, the legacy of political decisions made far away. It’s crucial work, and, now more than ever, life-threatening. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 40 journalists have died doing their jobs in 2014 so far, covering war, corruption, crime, culture and politics in far-flung countries around the world.
The 2015 James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting, announced at the Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Sept. 27 during the Online News Association Conference in Chicago, is a step toward recognizing that work, and honoring the men and women who see it as their mission. It will be awarded next year to a digital journalist doing excellent reporting in the most challenging conditions and we’ll be formulating the criteria and selection process for the award over the next months.
When Phil Balboni, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Post, came to ONA with the idea of honoring Jim and his colleagues — with blessings from his parents, Diane and John Foley — we knew immediately the answer would be yes. Phil worked closely with Jim until his abduction and worked with his family to try to secure his release, and knew firsthand Jim’s dedication to his craft.
As ONA Board member and former ONA President Jim Brady said in announcing the honor, “We hope this award will keep Jim’s spirit and memory alive, and help highlight the brave and dangerous work our colleagues do so that we all may benefit.”