Who was James Foley?

Alexa Nielson

Weber State University

Some people give their lives to their work, and occasionally, it’s a literal statement. Freelance war correspondent James Foley was one of those people.

During the Syrian Civil War, Foley was abducted and later executed, the first American citizen killed by ISIL. Tom Durkin, program director for the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, wants to ensure Foley’s legacy lives on. One such way is through screening “Jim: The James Foley Story” on March 12 at the Weber County Library, presented by Weber State University.

Durking is in the movie, along with Clare Gillis, another journalist abducted with Foley, and both will be attending the screening and a panel discussion for questions after.

Durkin primarily focuses on promoting journalist safety. In addition to this, he is collecting Foley’s works of writing. Foley was and is a well-regarded journalist, but he was also an accomplished fiction writer, and Durkin would like to make all of Foley’s work widely known.

“Jim was my best friend,” Durkin said. “Perhaps from a selfish perspective, I want to see his legacy live on. I want to make sure his death was not in vain.”

After having time and distance to reflect on Foley’s death in 2014, Durkin recognizes his friend’s goodness even more.

“Jim was a compassionate listener; he believed in people, in doing good, in helping others,” Durkin said. “He believed in the truth and telling truth to power. I believe his life will serve as in inspiration for generations to come.

WSU’s Dr. Jean Norman is teaching a course utilizing the James W. Foley Safety Guide, created by the professors at Northwestern University for the James W. Foley Foundation. Dr. Norman finds his story compelling and maintains that journalism students who want to work in conflict zones would benefit from it.

The film screening begins at at 6:30 p.m. Following the film, Pulitzer Prize winner and WSU alumna Jessica Miller from the Salt Lake Tribune will moderate the panel discussion.

Funding for the event came from the Utah Humanities and a WSU Grant. Co-sponsors include the WSU Honors Program, the Community Center for Engaged Learning, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Amnesty International WSU chapter.

Jean Norman, Signpost Advisor, contributed information for this story.