Monday, June 22, 2009

The Media Keeps Out for Its Own

We're different admits the media:-

...the New York Times reveal[ed] that one of its top reporters, David Rohde, had escaped from his Taliban kidnappers...

My magazine, Editor & Publisher, was among the media outlets aware, very early on (probably ahead of many others), that Rohde had been snatched along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border...

...what I witnessed in the six months after we found out about it was the most amazing press blackout on a major event that I have ever seen...Even the blogosphere was almost totally silent, or in the dark. Every few days I googled it and found almost nothing from blogs and foreign sources. This was even more astounding than the mainstream media blackout. You could say the blackout worked, or that all sorts of people, around the world, were scrupulous about this tragedy.

...Every few weeks we checked in with one Times editor or another...the editors were not heavy handed in demanding silence on our part, although they must have been worried that (even) we knew about the kidnapping. Frankly, we wondered why they weren't more insistent -- perhaps they assumed the best about their media colleagues.

If so, that faith certainly was upheld.

...In keeping the story secret were we jeopardizing other reporters, or even other citizens, who might be traveling in the region of the kidnapping unaware of the dangers? I feared that we were all doing a disservice to many others for the sake of, maybe, helping the cause of one reporter...

I wonder now if a great debate will break out over media ethics in not reporting a story involving one of their own when they so eagerly rush out piece about nearly everything else. I imagine some may claim that the blackout would not have held if a smaller paper, not the mighty New York Times, had been involved. Or is saving this life (actually two, there was a local reporter also snatched) self-evidently justification enough?

...competing obligations and loyalties.

"There is also a matter of fairness and consistency. Would a news organization apply different standards in the case of a government diplomat or a business executive or a tourist than they would one of their own?"..."You should not be bound by a rigid rule. Rather you make the best journalistic decision in each case. In almost all cases, the value of a human life outweighs the value of revealing facts in a kidnapping that you would usually report."

Nice protecting your own.

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