2015 James Foley Award to honor unsung heroes: conflict reporters

By on October 2, 2014

Video produced by Matthew Geer

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.”

Editor’s note: the first James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting will be presented at the ONA15 conference in LA, during the Online Journalism Awards banquet on the evening of Saturday, September 26.

Jane McDonnell

As executive director, Jane oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, working closely with the Board of Directors. Her purview includes membership, partnerships, global community outreach, budgeting and revenue generation, fundraising and development, the Online Journalism Awards, and providing vision for ONA’s state-of-the-art annual conference.