Our Opinion: Death of a journalist


The execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamic terrorists resonates with journalists everywhere, and certainly at The Berkshire Eagle, where Daniel Pearl worked before moving on to the Wall Street Journal and a similar fate. Both journalists traveled to dangerous parts of the world to find and report the truth, and both were murdered by terrorist groups with no use for that truth.

Mr. Pearl was executed in January of 2002 as he pursued the still-smoking trail that led from the destroyed towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. His killers were members of al-Qaida, the terrorist group behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Foley, who like Mr. Pearl was beheaded, was murdered in Syria by a different group of barbarians, the Islamic State, which is trying to establish a caliphate in the region and is evidently feeling the impact of American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Mr. Pearl’s execution was taped and eventually released; Mr. Foley’s was posted on the Internet.

Recollections of Mr. Foley from friends and family Wednesday recall those offered in memory of Mr. Pearl. Both were good-natured, big-hearted and beloved by a large network of friends. Each was fearless and determined to get at the facts even if meant front-line reporting in danger zones. Neither was a politician with a cause beyond objectively seeking and reporting the truths they uncovered.

In 2011, not long after his release from a prison in Libya where he had spent six weeks, Mr. Foley told an audience at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University that part of the appeal of his foreign reporting was in meeting the people abused by the brutal regimes he chronicled, observing that "There’s an amazing reach for humanity in these places, in these barren places." That humanitarian impulse certainly motivated Mr. Pearl, who is remembered at The Eagle (and by veterans of the North Adams Transcript where he also worked) through the Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship, which benefits local students interested either in journalism or music, the latter another passion of Mr. Pearl.

Another journalist, Steven Sotloff, was displayed in the Foley video as the Islamic Group looks to blackmail President Obama into ending the airstrikes. He, like Daniel Pearl and James Foley, willingly followed a treacherous path to expose truths that were otherwise hidden and provide a voice to people in ravaged, war-torn lands who would otherwise go unheard.


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