It’s been more than a week since New York Times reporter David Rohde escaped from his captors in Pakistan, so maybe now is a good time to try and look dispassionately at the massive coverup that prevented news of his kidnapping from being reported for more than six months — a coverup that included not just 40 or so mainstream media outlets but Wikipedia as well, with the personal help of founder Jimmy Wales. Raising such ethical issues seemed somewhat crass in the days following his miraculous escape (although that didn’t stop some observers, including Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, from being early critics of the coverup). But those issues deserve to be talked about in more detail.
For the record, I don’t know David Rohde. From all accounts, he is a wonderful friend and colleague, not to mention an excellent reporter who has a great deal of experience working in troubled areas. All of which is — I would argue — completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, namely whether the New York Times and its senior management were right to conceal evidence of his kidnapping, and whether the editors at dozens of other outlets were right to go along with this plan.
I would argue that they were not, and that if anything the coverup has made things harder not just for future kidnapping victims such as Rohde, but for newspapers and other mainstream media outlets as a whole.
(Please read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab blog)