By: Joe Strupp
Little news has emerged from Iraq in recent days on the search for abducted stringer Jill Carroll, who most recently reported for the Christian Science Monitor. The Monitor’s managing editor, Marshall Ingwerson, told E&P today the paper has not heard anything new on Carroll’s whereabouts or condition. He said the official search efforts are being headed by a combined “hostage working group” consisting of state department officials and Iraqi police.
“It includes the U.S. military and the government,” he added, but offered no specifics. A Pentagon spokesman told E&P that such efforts to find abducted Americans are handled through the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which has not responded to requests for information.
Meanwhile, the paper is expected to send a second reporter to Baghdad on Friday to join reporter Scott Peterson, who has been there for several days working on efforts to find Carroll. The Monitor also has been using a new freelancer to cover other news in the region.
As the search continues, the paper’s editors say they are rethinking their coverage in Iraq, given the growing danger for reporters and others.
Ingwerson said the kidnapping of Carroll, a stringer who was abducted Saturday (as a translator was killed), might spark a change in the paper’s staffing in Iraq, which normally consists of one staff writer and one stringer. “It is a discussion we have all the time and we are having it more intently today,” he told E&P. “This re-focuses how we go about security. It is too soon to conclude anything.”
Carroll, who had been writing for the Monitor for about a year and provided increased coverage in the past four months, was kidnapped Saturday. The Monitor succeeded in convincing major U.S. news outlets to hold off reporting the story for two days. The paper finally wrote its own story Monday.
While Carroll, 28, is not a staff writer for the Monitor, she had been serving as the paper’s lone Baghdad reporter for at least a week when she was kidnapped, the Monitor said. Ingwerson said she was filling in during a routine transition between reporters. Staff Writer Ilene Prusher had left Baghdad at the end of December, with Scott Peterson planning to replace her.
“When she was abducted, we did not have any [staff] correspondent in Baghdad, she was our lone correspondent,” said Monitor spokesman Jay Jostyn. He said the paper rotates a group of five foreign correspondents in and out of Baghdad about every two months.
“People need to take breaks pretty frequently,” said Ingwerson. “It is pretty intense.” He said Peterson returned to Baghdad earlier this week and has essentially spent all of his time helping in the search for Carroll. Other Baghdad reporters from competing news organizations have also been involved, although Ingwerson was not specific about what they were doing.
“He’s been on it full time,” Ingwerson said about Peterson’s efforts to find Carroll. “We can bring in others to do news coverage when necessary. This is definitely Scott’s first priority.”
The managing editor added that a second Monitor staff writer, Dan Murphy, is expected to join Peterson in the Baghdad bureau on Friday. Murphy is normally based in Cairo. In addition, the paper has brought on a new stringer to cover news in the area, Charles Levinson, who penned a story in today’s paper on efforts to train Iraqi police.
“There is a lot to manage there and there are so many parties involved, working on so many fronts in trying to get good information on Jill’s whereabouts,” Ingwerson said about the need for more people in the bureau. “It is a big job.”
Ingwerson added that editors have also discussed going to Baghdad to join in the search and keep on top of the effort to find Carroll, but no plans have been made yet. “We have discussed it almost daily,” he said. “But we want everybody to be in the place they are most useful.” He also said the Monitor had been in constant contact with Carroll’s family, who are based in Michigan, but declined to comment further on those talks.