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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Panel carries on Foley’s legacy

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In a career that’s also a lifestyle, when the workday never ends, the line between professional and personal legacy becomes blurred. For late photojournalist James “Jim” Foley, journalism was both a profession and a way of life.

“Jim had an interest in civilians, in the everyday person. He was always doing things for the underdog, telling their stories,” Tom Durkin, a longtime friend of Foley and adjunct professor of English, said while speaking at an “On the Issues” panel discussion, “Freelancing on the Front Lines.” The discussion happened Tuesday, Sept. 27, and was a collaboration between Marquette University and the Milwaukee Film Festival.

Sunday, Sept. 25, the film festival presented “Jim: The James Foley Story,” a documentary featuring Foley’s family members and fellow captives speaking about the Marquette grad and his dedication to sharing the stories of civilians in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. Foley was kidnapped by ISIS in 2012 and held for two years before being publicly executed.

Durkin spoke alongside Journal Sentinel reporter Meg Jones and Erik Ugland, a College of Communication faculty member. WISN’s Mike Gousha moderated the discussion.

Foley became a freelance journalist in order to get closer to the story. He was first embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan. While reporting in Libya in 2011, Foley was captured and held for 44 days.

“If people like Jim aren’t putting themselves in harm’s way, we don’t know what’s going on over there,”  Jones said.

According to Durkin, Marquette instilled Foley’s desire to travel to the front lines and get the deeper stories.

“I knew that’s what was driving him to go to places like that, and it all started at Marquette,” Durkin said. “The thrill of the front line fades. Anyone can take pictures of bombs exploding, but Jim was interested in the people three miles away from that. He wanted to know how they would be impacted.”

Ugland is on the board of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, an organization with the mission to free American hostages, support the rights of conflict journalists and educate disadvantaged youth.

Foley’s legacy is carried on by the Marquette journalism students following in his footsteps, including Jacob Zelinski, a sophomore in the College of Communication and the first recipient of the James Foley Scholarship in 2015.

“I’m incredibly humbled and inspired,”  Zelinski said, after watching the film. “I’ve never been more touched by an art piece.”

Durkin said that individuals are able to impact the world in different ways, but can still be inspired by Foley.

“We’re either people for others or we’re not,” Durkin said. “We all have our front line. What he taught us is that we do what we can, and it can be in your neighborhood, it can be in your state, it can be in another country. You don’t have to go to Syria, you don’t have to go to Libya to be a person for others.”

The James Foley film is also available to stream on Amazon and HBO.

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