As mentioned earlier: New York Times reporter David Rohde managed to escape his Taliban captors to freedom last night by hopping over a wall. He was imprisoned for seven months. How wasn't this widely reported? Even by us? Simple:
The New York Times managed it with expert precision and a delicate hand. In their release, Times managing editor Bill Keller noted that "the prevailing view among David's family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages. The kidnappers initially said as much. We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David's plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support." So did the Times explicitly ask news organizations to simply not report the story for the safety of their writers?
Yeah: that's actually exactly what happened. According to a comment left by Gawker's managing editor Gabriel Snyder on the earlier post, two things of pretty fascinating substance: (1) "it had been widely known in the Times newsroom and media circles almost as soon as he was taken hostage," which, even with their reporter's life on the line, is surprising given the fact that there was virtually nothing heard regarding this story and (2) Gabriel had contacted the Times regarding a piece on the kidnapping. The Times - or specifically - Cathrine Mathis, SVP of Communications at The New York Times Co., emailed Gabriel to ask that Gawker not run the story out of safety for their reporter's life. "Put that way, it was hard not to agree," Snyder writes. And that's why it happened: the competing obligation between having to write the news and being sensitive to a possibly fatal situation. And the Times, thankfully, chose Rohde's life. They also did an unbelievable job at shutting down the story elsewhere.
So who did report on David Rohde's kidnapping? Combat reporter Michael Yon asked about it while embedded in Iraq: "In December, during a trip with Secretary Gates, I asked a New York Times reporter if she knew the status of the situation. The story had been kept so quiet that she didn't actually know the kidnapping had occurred. The information came to me from several sources some weeks after the kidnapping in Afghanistan. I sat on the information, but there are a growing number of snippets on the web..." A conservative American blog called Infidels Are Cool linked to Italian wire service AKI's story on it. Conservative forum/quasi-hate mongers Free Republic did a little dance on it. Sensing a pattern? What's out there around the time of the kidnapping are things like that: fringe reports.
Meanwhile, Gabriel brings up an interesting final point: while the Times has every resource to understand and execute strategies regarding sensitive issues like this one, he (A) walked over a wall - Rodhe's words, and (B) the Times ran an article patronizing smaller institutions sending reporters into dangerous territory without being able to provide safe cover for them, the most pertinent example of which being, of course, Euna Lee and Laura Ling from Current.TV, who're being held in North Korea right now after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. But Rohde was there for over seven months, and he managed to get loose all on his own. So much for big institutional power in that regard.
In the statement the Times released, it was noted that Keller wasn't going to be commenting on it. But the issue's over. Rohde's safe, and each instance something like this happens is unique, so the Times' protocol can't be exactly the same each time (and thus, "compromised" by commenting on it). Is Keller going quiet because - for all the Times' money and strategy and power - their reporter ended up hopping a wall to safety? Or because - despite being proud at the securing of Rohde's life - Keller might be a little uneasy with the fact that his news outlet was so successful at shutting down every other major news outlet's reporting of their story?