Amidst Increasing Violence Against Journalists, Foley Foundation Updates Its Curriculum to Help Them Stay Safe

WASHINGTON, DC – To assist journalists facing unprecedented safety challenges covering the coronavirus and protests against racial inequality, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation has updated its safety curriculum with new resources to help protect journalists in the field. 

To date, there have been more than 470 reported incidents of arrest or assault against members of the press covering protests across 70 cities, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. The latest changes augment journalist safety curricula first created in 2015 for college and university journalism programs to help ensure that students are aware of and prepared to handle the dangers they face as they enter the profession.

Updates to the James W. Foley Journalism Safety Modules include new information on journalists’ rights, how to safely cover protests and the coronavirus,  safety risks facing female journalists and journalists of color, and resources addressing the harmful impacts of the lack of diversity in newsrooms. 

“We want to help educators create a culture that reinforces the importance of safety, while making sure students are up to date on threats they may face in the field,” said Tom Durkin, the Foundation’s education program director who developed the safety modules. “We hope this preventive approach to safety will benefit not just the next generation of journalists, but also freelancers who may have difficulty accessing training and education materials.”

A new module, “Understanding Journalists’ Rights,” will help journalists make informed choices when they are covering protests, interacting with law enforcement officers or attempting to de-escalate potential conflicts. In addition, updates were made to Module 3: Running a Newsroom – Creating a Culture of Safety; Module 4: On Assignment – Mitigating Risk; Module 5: Reporting on – and during – the COVID-19 Pandemic; Module 7: Diversity in the Newsroom & the Targeting of Female and Minority Journalists. Other modules teach students about risk assessments, covering civil unrest, emotional self-care, care of sources, interviewing hostile sources, reporting on foreign conflicts, protecting digital data, dealing with online harassment and covering weather-related stories. Each module is designed for easy integration into existing journalism and communications courses.

The safety modules were developed in collaboration with Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication, the alma mater of freelance journalist James Foley, who was killed by ISIS while covering the Syrian conflict in 2014. The Foundation received generous support from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation to launch the modules, which serve as the undergraduate companion to the James W. Foley Journalist Safety Guide, a graduate-level curriculum created by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism Washington Bureau Chief and Foley Foundation board member, Ellen Shearer, in collaboration with Reporters Without Borders. 

In addition to Marquette and Northwestern, other universities already implementing or expressing interest in the modules include New York University, University of Missouri, University of Oklahoma, University of Florida, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, American University, Arizona State University, West Virginia University, University of New Hampshire, Weber State University, Quinnipiac University, and the University of Central Missouri.

Both the James W. Foley Journalism Safety Modules and the James W. Foley Journalist Safety Guide can be found, free of charge, at

To access the full PDF of the James W. Foley Journalism Safety Modules, click HERE.