The Kidnapped Reporter's Career GuideS

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, freed from North Korea. David Rohde escaped from the Taliban. Kidnapping is a constant danger to journalists—and an awesome career opportunity! Here's how to take advantage of the scarynewsiest moment of your life.

  • Don't Deserve to Be Kidnapped: Being arrested for trying to smuggle heroin out of Thailand, for example, will not make you as sympathetic a figure as being kidnapped by extremists in pursuit of truth.
  • Make Your Rescue as Dramatic as Possible: David Rohde actually escaped, from a Taliban prison! Ling and Lee were rescued by "Big" Bill Clinton, on an airplane! These are the types of high-profile rescues that make for exciting news stories. Being turned over quietly to a low-level embassy employee after quiet negotiations does little to get your name in the headlines. To the extent you can, keep your situation dramatically charged. If necessary, act as a double agent to make sure the whole thing doesn't go too smoothly.
  • Pray For a Slow News Cycle: Ling and Lee were front page news for days—mostly because they had the good fortune to be rescued in the midst of the hot, boring, summer, when reporters will drag out any semi-respectable story as long as possible to fill the gaping news hole. Compare their fate to that of Ezterhas Rocococo, the E! journalist freed by the Tamil Tigers after seven years imprisonment. Why haven't you heard much about his story? Because he was set free on September 11, 2001. And because we made him up.
  • Practice Your Humble Homecoming: You can't come back like some raving lunatic who went crazy on the inside. You also can't come back like some huge asshole always being the guy at the reporters' bar saying "Yea that Bloomberg press conference sounds crazy, reminds me of when I was eating bugs with an AK two inches from my ear in a bamboo cage, back in '06." You have to fake being humble. "I just want to get back to work," etc. Patently false, but still.
  • Book, TV, Movie: That's the order. The book deal gets you the TV promos and then—hopefully—the movie. So write your book with Angelina Jolie's tastes in mind.
  • Get the Fuck Outta Journalism: This is the endgame. What did you think it was? Pulitzer? Do you know how much a Pulitzer pays? Not much, my friend. You have to ride this kidnapping thing all the way up the ladder. Think about it: "From Helpless to Hollywood: My Journey From an Al Quaeda Prison Cell to Hollywood Squares." The next book writes itself.