Yesterday, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt discussed Times reporter David Rohde‘s kidnapping and the lengths the paper’s staff took to keep the story out of the media.
Rohde has been mum about his ordeal, but Tahir Ludin, an Afghan journalist captured with Rohde and their driver, Asadullah Mangal, gave his story to the Times last month. Hoyt dug up some other facts about the kidnapping and the cover up, and he didn’t agree with them all.
First, Hoyt said Rohde’s kidnappers had requested silence. “Possibly by defying them, we would be signing David’s death warrant,” Times executive editor Bill Keller told him.
What’s more, although we had already learned that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales had helped to keep news of the kidnapping off Rohde’s Wiki page, Hoyt said Times reporter Michael Moss and spokeswomen Catherine Mathis “persuaded a group of New England newspapers to remove Rohde’s wedding notice and photos from their Web site so the kidnappers would not have personal information they could use to pressure him psychologically,” — a move Hoyt found “troubling.”
However, Hoyt generally seems to agree with the choices made by Keller and the others, admitting that the situation and others like it puts editors is “excruciating positions.”
“Had I been in Keller’s shoes, I would have done what he did for Rohde and his companions,” Hoyt concluded. “Even though Keller acknowledged, ‘I’ll never know for sure whether our silence had any impact whatsoever on David’s fate.”