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James Foley Medill Medal Winner to Speak at Northwestern

Veteran foreign correspondent Kathy Gannon honored for outstanding courage

  • Shot six times, Gannon honored for resilience; coverage of Afghanistan
  • Ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 20, in McCormick Foundation Center Forum
  • James Foley’s parents expected to attend event

EVANSTON, Ill.  -- Associated Press correspondent Kathy Gannon, the 2014 recipient of the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism award, will be honored by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integratred Marketing Communications, Friday, Nov. 20.

Gannon, who was shot six times by an Afgan security officer while on assignment in Afghanistan, also will field questions and discuss life as a veteran foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston. The program is free and open to the public.

The James Foley Medill Medal includes a $5,000 prize and honors the journalist who has best displayed moral, ethical or physical courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories.  

Last year the award’s name was changed to honor freelance journalist and Northwestern alumnus James Foley, who was posthumously awarded the medal. Foley was captured while reporting in Syria in 2012 and killed by ISIS extremists in 2014.

Foley’s parents, John and Diane Foley, plan to attend the event honoring Gannon.

Gannon’s selection “comes on top of a long, brave and distinguished career spanning decades,” said Ellen Soeteber, a member of the Medill Board of Advisers and one of three judges for the award. “She’s a veteran dedicated to telling the story.”

On April 4, 2014, Gannon and AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus were sitting in the back seat of a car in the province of Khost when an Afghan police officer fired an AK-47 into the vehicle.

Niedringhaus was killed. Gannon, shot six times, was badly wounded. It was the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan.

Still, Gannon continued to cover Afghanistan, while recovering from injuries and grieving for her colleague, who she had been working with since 2009. Two months after the attack, she wrote about the prisoner exchange between the United States and the Taliban.

At the Medill event, Gannon will be introduced by Richard Stolley, senior editorial adviser for Time Inc. In addition to Soeteber, Stolley and Medill professor Donna Leff also served as judges, unanimously choosing Gannon as the 2014 winner.

In addition to her work for the Associated Press, Gannon also wrote “I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror in Afghanistan,” detailing her experience of working as a journalist in Afghanistan during a formative two decades for the country.

Gannon arrived in the 1980s as the Soviet Union was being defeated by the mujahedeen and stayed for more than 18 years, witnessing the rise of the Taliban and the later intervention of Western powers. In her book, she details how upheaval affected ordinary Afghans, people she has lived among and reported about for decades.

Last year’s Foley Medill Medal winner was Matthieu Aikins, who reported on alleged war crimes by U.S. Army Special Forces in Wardak Province in Afghanistan. His work was published in Rolling Stone magazine. The honor has been given annually since 2003.

--By Jasmine Rangel Leonas

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