News veteran Balboni says Foley 'found his calling' covering war zones.
But Balboni, co-founder and CEO of the online international news company GlobalPost, captured his thoughts in a few simple sentences. “He was a reporter. Period,” said Balboni. “He was old-school, someone who talked to the locals and always put the story first. He came to journalism late in life, but he found his calling.”
“When I remember Jim, which I will for the rest of my days, at his final moment, showing incredible courage right to the last minute of his life, that needs to be honored,” Balboni said. “He loved telling these stories, and he was drawn to conflict. It’s where he came alive.”
“I have such a clear mental image of this,” he said. “I was sitting in my home in Cambridge (Mass.). It was the Saturday right after the Thanksgiving holiday, and I got an email on my Blackberry from a freelance journalist who knew Jim saying she feared that Jim had gone missing,” Balboni said. “You build such a strong bond with someone, working to free him the first time. I had a terrible feeling thinking it had happened again.”
The demand was received in November 2013.
“I think personally, and speaking for the Foleys as well, we would’ve paid a ransom,” said Balboni. “We were working hard to raise the money. We had extensive conversations about this with branches of the United States government and with legal counsel, and were familiar with what was legally permissible for us to do. I understand that many feel giving money to these evil people is a very hard thing to do, but we were prepared to do it if we could raise the money. But then we never heard from the kidnappers again.”
The group’s co-CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, issued a statement Thursday saying, “At Teach For America, we will remember Jim for his tenacity, his spirit, and his fierce dedication to give voice to the voiceless. He was one of a kind. I’ll remember his courage, bravery, and commitment to justice. Jim was an incredible teacher who was a model of love and excellence, and went on to be a journalist with the same passion, care, and integrity that he’d shown in the classroom.”
Friends remember Foley as a kind soul and a tireless journalist, and have been sharing stories through social media honoring Foley’s memory.
Those who knew him were lucky to call Jim a friend. Those who didn’t missed something beautiful.”
Bloomberg News’ Alex Sherman urged Twitter followers to “please remember my friend Jim Foley today — beheaded by ISIS after nearly two years of capture. A funny, warm, Big Lebowski–loving guy.”
“We are proud of what we do,” said Balboni. “I see so many reporters, of all ages, who are hungry to go to these places, meet the people, tell their stories. Will Jim’s death deter some from taking up journalism? It might. But his spirit will live on in those that do.