New York Times Editors’ Note: Responsible Journalism at Work


An article on Oct. 26, 2014, described the ordeal that James Foley and other Westerners endured as hostages of ISIS. Shortly after publication, questions were raised about the article’s description of Mr. Foley’s conversion to Islam during his captivity. While several fellow hostages had told The Times that Mr. Foley’s conversion appeared sincere, his family said afterward that they believed he remained committed to his Roman Catholic faith, and that he had adopted Islamic rituals to continue to pray. After another former hostage, Didier Francois, was released in 2014, he privately conveyed a message to that effect to Mr. Foley’s mother from her son, which Mr. Francois recently confirmed to The Times.

In response to the questions raised after the article was published, Times editors in 2015 assigned a follow-up article to explore the complex question of religious belief and conversion in a situation of captivity and duress. That article examined a range of views about Mr. Foley’s beliefs and the larger issue. In retrospect, the original 2014 article would have been enhanced if it had reflected more of that complexity.

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