How to cover a kidnapping: Moral questions, and journalistic ones

On Saturday, Jan. 7th, Christian Science Monitor writer Jill Carroll was abducted in Baghdad and her translator Allan Enwiyah was killed. The CSM requested a news blackout “pending further notice.” News had gone out already over the wire, but even so, the blackout was generally honored until the CSM lifted it Monday. Almost a week later Jack Shafer wonders about the ethics of a news blackout, especially when a journalist is involved:

Were journalists guilty of treating a fellow reporter differently than they would a kidnapped nonreporter? Were there precedents for such an indefinite blackout?… Should the blackout have been observed even though CNN had covered the killing and the foreign press had already published news about it?

He asks Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett, Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Doug Frantz and the NYT‘s Bill Keller, who obviously had some experience directing coverage of close-to-home stories in recent months. The NYT has also lost two associated journalists – New Yorker Steven Vincent and Iraqi stringer Fakher Haider, both in Basra — and Keller makes the point that attaching the name of the New York Times to an abductee increases the danger they are in. Meanwhile, Times Baghdad reporter Dexter Filkins isn’t even sure the blackout was a good idea after the first day; Shafer wonders why, if silence is so important, that wasn’t made clearer in news stories.

It’s a good piece and a sad one, because even as these questions are being asked and reflectively answered, Carroll still has not been found. In the meantime, journalists in Baghdad are mobilizing to try to find her.

How to cover a kidnapping: It isn’t that easy [Slate]
Abduction of American Reporter in Iraq Blacked Out By U.S. News Outlets [E&P]
“Reporters In Baghdad Mobilized” To Find Kidnapped Freelancer [TVNewser]

Another sad angle – a story on slain aid worker Marla Ruzicka, by Jill Carroll:
An American activist who dared to help Iraqi victims [CSM]