An ode to freelance.

Some journalists give their lives to trying to share other people’s stories.

To give your life to try and change the lives of others, or even just document the changing face of the world, is a great price to pay.

James Foley is one of many freelance journalists who travel the world, heading straight for the action. They look for conflict, and delve into the heart of it to search for a deeper truth. They find the human nature within the most barbaric of situations, and share these stories of the world, reminding us that in war and peace we are all still the same.

Freelance journalists are brave, and courageous. They do something that most people could never do. While most people turn and run from war, freelance journalists are drawn to it and thrive in the middle of chaos. It’s an uncertain world, not knowing where the next major conflict will occur or whether or not your next article will get published. But there is always a need. The world wants to know what’s going on in the darkest of places, and freelance journalists are some of the only people that can enter these situations and share them with the world.

“Anybody who is in freelance work, especially artistically, knows that it comes with all the insecurity and the ups and downs. It’s a really frightening life.”- Alessandro Nivola

Two years ago James Foley went missing. The 40-year old freelance journalist fell of the map while on assignment in Syria, something that many who follow in his particular line of work face. Whether taken hostage, going into hiding, or just losing contact with the world, it’s not uncommon for freelance journalists to go M.I.A for an uncertain amount of time. The unfortunate truth is that reporting the missing status of war correspondents and other journalists in conflict zones isn’t common practice. The white noise could come as a result of a number of situations, and in hostage cases or other precarious situations reporting the event can make it more dangerous for the individual.

Today he is presumed dead after a video was posted by ISIS showing an individual being beheaded. Though unconfirmed, the world is mourning, and the event has gripped the media.

People don’t always consider journalism to be a dangerous career. Certainly there are kinds of journalism that are safer than most; sitting in a cozy radio recording booth, interviewing Hollywood’s whos-who, or working in a sleepy town on the coast. But when it comes to freelance journalism, travel journalism, being a war correspondent or working for an international bureau it’s pretty hard to compete with most other communications job danger-wise.

They say it’s for thrill-seekers, for adrenaline-junkies.

I think it’s for people that dare to tell the stories no one else can. In the words of his mother Diane; “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Foley’s death marks a significant reminder  for North Americans. A reminder that civilians can suffer at the hands of militants around the world, that you don’t have to work in the military to feel the repurcussions of an international-conflict. The conflict may be seperated from the rest of us by borders, but the suffering and impact is felt worldwide.

As for myself? I doubt I will ever have the strength to be a freelance journalist. To explore as they do, to seek out and find the stories in the midst of chaos is something that I don’t know if I could do. My first instinct is still to duck and run when fists or bullets start flying.

But I stand with other journalists in reflecting and remembering James Foley, and the sacrifice other freelance journalists and war correspondents have made for their craft. It’s an uncertain world. The only thing I’m truly certain of is the incredible strength of these individuals and the strength of their families and friends in hard times. I’m certain that freelance journalists will continue to face uncertainty and danger despite the loss of great writers like James Foley. They will continue to bring to us visions and glimpses of what we hope we never have to face at home.

But the struggle goes on.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“More than 30 reporters—about half of them Westerners—have disappeared in Syria and are believed to be held by extremist forces. Westerners working for aid groups also have gone missing in Syria. More than 50 journalists have been killed since Syria’s civil war began in early 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.”


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