By Stacy Kess
We lost one of our own this week.
After being captured by the terrorist group, ISIS, we learned journalist James Foley was beheaded.
Reporters and photographers have a strange camaraderie. We vie for position in press conferences. We try to be first, the most factual and the most in-depth. We argue in the newsroom. But at the end of the day, we are one.
Only fellow reporters and photographers can truly understand each other – why we put ourselves in danger, why we run toward a disaster when others run away and why we put the story before all else.
I have put myself at risk for a story. I have documented destruction and death. I have missed birthdays, holidays and anniversaries for my work. And I do it willingly.
I have also lost friends and colleagues in the field working to document war and disaster.
Two year ago, I lost a mentor in the field. I was at work when I received a phone call from a colleague letting me know of the death. I doubled over as if punched in the stomach.
I did not know James Foley personally, though he and I have worked under the same editor at different points in our careers. Without that link, James and I would still have a connection as journalists.
The news of his death did not shock me – perhaps I have become accustomed to losing colleagues to war – but I felt that same punch to the gut.
I feel that same punch when I hear of fellow journalists being kidnapped.
I feel that same punch when I hear of journalists arrested by media-stifling governments.
The question was posed to me Thursday morning as I sipped my coffee at the diner: why go into Syria or Egypt or Somalia or the Ukraine? Why put yourselves in danger like that?
Because we must. It is not just our job, but our way of life. We have a need to inform the public. What we document is not always pleasant but it must be done. It doesn’t fall to us; we do it willingly. We know the risks, but there is a need greater than our own. It is our calling.
James’ death sickens me as a senseless act, but I understand why he was there.
I sent an email to my former editor who worked recently with James at the GlobalPost.
“I hated when people said ‘I’m sorry,’” I wrote of my mentor’s death. “So I won’t say that.”
The truth of the matter is James risked his life for his calling – our calling – and I won’t apologize for that. Rather, I’ll say a prayer for James and his family, admire his courage and praise his strength to continue his work despite the dangers.
Then, I will continue my work, even when the risks are high.
Reporter Stacy Kess can be reached at 614-373-4166 or on Twitter @StacyMKess.