Paper ‘Surprised and Heartened’ Media Went Along with Blackout Request

By: Joe Strupp

The Christian Science Monitor’s managing editor, Marshall Ingwerson, considers the paper’s request for a weekend news blackout on the abduction of Monitor reporter Jill Carroll successful, despite the fact that numerous foreign news outlets continued to report the story.

“It wasn’t just U.S. media, there were various Italian agencies that ran with a lot of details, and a Kuwaiti news agency that ran with it, then pulled it down,” he told E&P. “Basically, everyone who ran with it, once we reached them, was cooperative. I was surprised and very heartened that people were so willing to help us.”

An E&P story on Monday revealed that the blackout requests began late Saturday, shortly after Carroll, a 28-year-old stringer, was abducted in Baghdad during an incident in which her translator was killed. No new word about her status was available Tuesday, Ingwerson said, adding that the paper had no word on her abductors or any contact with them.

Meanwhile, in the Monitor newsroom, the atmosphere is decidedly down, Ingwerson said. “Everything is sort of quiet, quietly supportive, and it has been really disruptive in that a lot of us are totally absorbed and people are filling in and being really helpful,” he said, noting that twice-a-day updates have been held for staffers. “Everybody is very somber, I would say. It has taken some of the normal hurly burly out of it.”

The Monitor said Monday that it began contacting news outlets, such as Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, late Saturday asking that they not cover the story in an effort to help protect Carroll’s safety. All major news outlets in the U.S. held off on the story until Monday, while the Associated Press, which ran an article Saturday without Carroll’s identity, did not post another story for two days.

On Monday afternoon, the Monitor finally reported on the incident, with a Web story posted after 3 p.m. that also ran in today’s paper. AP and others followed with its own stories on the abduction and Carroll’s background.

“The dam was breaking,” Ingwerson said about why he decided to lift the blackout. “I was getting calls from people who were under increasing pressure (to report the story).” He would not identify those news organizations that called, but said he understood their situation.

Even though the story of the abduction and Carroll’s identity was reported by numerous news agencies overseas, and British newspapers, with corresponding Web site links, Ingwerson believed the blackout effort managed to limit the exposure. “The story stayed much lower-profile than if it had been generally run with,” he said. “There are little windows where you could Google something and come up with details, but those windows were only open a little while. The overseas blackout was fairly tight.”

When asked how the limited reporting might have helped Carroll’s situation, Ingwerson declined to elaborate, saying “I don’t want to go on the record with anything on that. When this is resolved I would love to talk about it.”

He also downplayed speculation that working for a newspaper with “Christian” in the name might affect Carroll’s situation or cause her captors to treat her more harshly, as some outside editors had noted. “Jill worked for a lot of newspapers and media from many countries,” he said. “She is not a Monitor staffer.”

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