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Reporter Kathy Gannon recognized with James Foley Medill Medal of Courage

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Reporter Kathy Gannon recognized with James Foley Medill Medal of Courage

Reporter Kathy Gannon accepts the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and speaks to students and faculty about her experience as a reporter in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. Gannon was attacked in Afghanistan last year but has recovered and plans to return to overseas reporting soon.

Reporter Kathy Gannon accepts the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and speaks to students and faculty about her experience as a reporter in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. Gannon was attacked in Afghanistan last year but has recovered and plans to return to overseas reporting soon.

Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Reporter Kathy Gannon accepts the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and speaks to students and faculty about her experience as a reporter in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. Gannon was attacked in Afghanistan last year but has recovered and plans to return to overseas reporting soon.

Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Reporter Kathy Gannon accepts the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and speaks to students and faculty about her experience as a reporter in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. Gannon was attacked in Afghanistan last year but has recovered and plans to return to overseas reporting soon.

Cydney Hayes, Reporter

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Associated Press correspondent Kathy Gannon was recognized Friday with the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

The award is given to the individual or group of journalists who “displayed moral, ethical or physical courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories,” according to Medill’s website. The award ceremony, which included a breakfast buffet before the event, was held in the McCormick Foundation Center.

Gannon was attacked and wounded last year while reporting in Afghanistan, where she was stationed for nearly two decades.

“Our job is to inform, but sometimes that comes with a price,” Gannon said.

After being presented with the medal, Gannon spoke to the nearly 200 students, faculty and community members about her experience and philosophy as a reporter.

Gannon discussed the dangers of being a female reporter overseas. In addition to the inherent dangers of traveling through politically unstable regions like the one in which she was attacked, she often faced blatant sexism due to the culture in Afghanistan, she said. Although she maintained her resolve when met with prejudice, she said she always made sure to never shame other cultures, and to remember what story she was trying to tell.

“The whole point of us doing what we do is to tell, is to try and tell their stories, not our own,” Gannon said. “I can’t let being Canadian, or a woman, or whatever else take away from that.”

James Foley’s parents, John Foley and Diane Foley, also attended and spoke briefly about the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and about their view of Gannon before the ceremony.

“Jim was so proud to be a Medill alum; he was courageous, committed and compassionate,” Diane Foley said. “Kathy is also all of those things, much more experienced and truly a veteran in her work.”

James Foley (Medill ’08) was an American journalist who was beheaded by the Islamic State group in 2014 after being captured in Syria two years earlier. The award, which began in 2003, was renamed from the Medill Medal of Courage last year to honor Foley’s memory.

During the breakfast, student organizers walked through the lobby of the McCormick Foundation Center, holding a whiteboard with the words, “A journalist is … ,” written on it. As part of a social media campaign, they approached the attendees and asked them to complete the sentence.

“We’re trying to get people to think about what a journalist is to them,” said Priyanka Mody, a Medill senior and co-chair of the Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council. “Obviously a journalist is courageous, but a journalist is also so much more, and we really want to get people to recognize that.”

Gannon also gave the Medill students in the audience some advice for overseas reporting.

“Get to know your craft and hone your skills here before you go overseas if you plan to go at all,” Gannon said. “Reporting on different countries and cultures is delicate, so you have to make sure you have the experience and knowledge before you do.”

She also thanked her husband for his support and expressed her plan to return to work overseas. There are still many stories in Afghanistan and Pakistan that need to be told, she said.

“As journalists, it is our job to first understand the why,” Gannon said. “We inform, we don’t preach. We are chroniclers of history.”

Email: alisonhayes2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thecydneyhayes

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