The James W. Foley Journalist Safety Curriculum

A Curriculum Plan for College Journalism and Communications Instructors


The Medill School of Journalism, through its National Security Journalism Initiative, and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, in partnership with Reporters Without Borders and A Culture of Safety alliance, believe it is important for journalism and communications students to learn about the growing risk of reporting on the important stories around the world that involve heading into dangerous situations – from conflicts, terrorism and violent unrest to drug cartels, unstable regimes or organized crime around the world. Aspiring journalists must know how to prepare for such assignments and respond to danger if they choose this important yet challenging journalism career path.

Our organizations have created a three-seminar curriculum guide for undergraduate and graduate students called “The James W. Foley Journalists’ Guide to Safety and Risk Assessment,” which is intended to help educators teach these important concepts to students. The foundational seminar uses a documentary –“Jim: The James Foley Story” – to lead students into the world of conflict coverage. The other two seminars use research, interviews with veteran foreign correspondents and case studies to help students learn how to think through the assessments they should take before embarking on potentially dangerous reporting and then uses role-play to reinforce the assessment rubric.

We have created lesson plans for one four-hour session (which could be cut to three hours) and two three-hour sessions. Instructors can use all three seminars or select among them, although if only using one we strongly recommend that it be the first seminar lesson plan so students view the Foley documentary, which is approximately 2 hours, 15 minutes. The three-hour sessions also can be broken into three two-hour sessions.

These seminars can be a module in undergraduate or graduate seminars or reporting classes. They are particularly appropriate for an advanced reporting seminar or class, a foreign correspondence seminar, an investigative class or a global affairs seminar.

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