08/20/2014 09:29 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

Honor Journalist James Foley: Don't Watch the Video


If the early reports are correct and journalist James Foley was, in fact, executed by ISIS, you can honor him -- and not play into the terroristic hands of that organization -- simply by not watching the video of his murder.

Video voyeurism of the worst variety exists when we feast on the death of journalists who strive, through their reporting, to keep our society free. Resist the temptation to take even the briefest of looks.

A dozen years have passed since Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists in Pakistan. The images from that tragedy are still haunting today.

In Pearl's case, it wasn't until 2013 that a suspect was finally arrested in his murder.

The Poynter Institute offers up some great advice for when it may be permissible for news outlets to publish graphic images:

• What is my journalistic purpose?
• What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider?
• What are my ethical concerns?
• Who is the audience -- and who are the stakeholders affected by my decision?
What are my alternatives?

There is no news value in showing Foley's death. He is dead. We know that. We already know ISIS is brutal and savage.

YouTube is to be lauded for removing the video shortly after it was posted, as the International Business Times reported.

Any "social" media outlet that posts the video is anything but.

As a First Amendment free speech advocate, I typically find it exceedingly difficult to support the censorship of speech, be it by the government or business entities. But not in this case.

The Foley video, sadly, is sure to resurface on websites with names like Best Gore and remain in perpetuity in the fetid bowels of cyberspace.

I suspect that some very inventive people reading this post can think of some creative ways to protest and rebuke such sites and their ilk.

In contrast to sites that would post the video, the instant outpouring of empathy for James Foley now circulating on Twitter is an amazing tribute itself to the man. Let's keep it that way.

It's been a tough enough stretch of days for journalists being arrested in Ferguson, Mo., but Foley's apparent execution even puts those arrests into perspective when it comes to the dangers of being a journalist.

And if the reports of his death are wrong, then that would be the very best news to report.