Do the Right Thing

by Dan Ward

Since Nov. 10, 2008, The New York Times decided that a certain bit of news was not fit to print … the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been abducted by the Taliban.

While stating that Timesjournalists “cringed” about sitting on the story, Executive Editor Bill Keller said they decided to keep the abduction secret based on the judgment of experts who believed media exposure could have put Rohde in danger.

They did the right thing.

While certainly the abduction of a reporter for one of the world’s most famous newspapers has news value, there is a time when the value of human life should take precedence.  This was such a time.

The cynic in me must ask, however, whether the same decision would have been made if the abduction had involved a high-ranking military officer or a government official.  Would the Times afford them and their families the same courtesy, maintaining silence in order to ensure their safety?  Or did Rohde’s status as a reporter sway the Times’ decision?

I hope the same decision would have been made, and will be made in the future, regardless of job description.  As this story shows, secrecy is not always a bad thing.

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