Kathy Gannon, the Associated Press reporter who was presented with an award for courageous reporting at Northwestern University Friday, offered this advice to prospective foreign correspondents:
“Hone your skills here before you accept an overseas assignment. To get out of school and go immediately to Iraq is insulting to the people of Iraq.”
Indeed, Gannon, a Canadian citizen, worked for several years for a newspaper in her native Timmins, Ontario, where she said she sat in on school board meetings and reported on city government to her hometown readers.
But for the last 18 years, she reported mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan before an Afghan security worker unloaded several rounds of ammunition into a car in which she was riding in April, 2014, seriously wounding her and killing her AP colleague, Anja Niedringhaus, a German photographer.
The Medill judges unanimously selected Gannon as the recipient of the 2014 James Foley Medal for Courage in Journalism, named after the 2008 Medill graduate who was captured while reporting in Syria in 2012 and beheaded by ISIS extremists in 2014.
Foley’s parents were present yesterday at the ceremony in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum on the Evanston campus, which followed a reception in Gannon’s honor.
The officer who shot the two AP journalists was sentenced to death by an Afghan court, but the sentence was subsequently reduced to 20 years, which Gannon said was acceptable to her, as she personally does not believe in the death penalty.
About her experience in covering events in the Middle East for AP, Gannon said “our job is to inform, and it comes with a price.”
Despite her near-death experience in Afghanistan, Gannon says she is eager to return to the area, and that, indeed, the AP has encouraged her to do so.
“It’s important for me to go back and do what I love to do,” she told the Medill students yesterday.
Gannon added: “I’m incredibly fortunate in so many ways.”