By: Joe Strupp
Now that reporter Jill Carroll has been released from captivity after nearly three months, flown home to the United States, reunited with her family, and even visited her paper’s newsroom, what’s next?
As far as The Christian Science Monitor is concerned, that’s up to her. And the paper is in no hurry for her to decide.
“We don’t have a plan and it is not a question we have posed to her,” said Marshall Ingwerson, the Monitor’s managing editor. “We are going to let her take the lead when she is ready.” He said no plans have even been made for Carroll to tell her story in any kind of formal way, be it a written newspaper account or some other kind of extensive approach.
“Whether she wants to hold a big press conference or do a first-person, it is up to her,” Ingwerson said Tuesday, a day after Carroll visited the Monitor’s Boston newsroom for the first time. “We have no plans yet, we are going to let it come out at her own pace.”
Carroll, 28, was released in Baghdad last Thursday after being held captive since Jan. 7, when she was abducted in an incident in which her translator was killed. Her abductors, who had demanded the release of all Iraqi women prisoners several times, dropped her off at a political party office with no explanation.
Returning to the United States on Sunday, Carroll met her family in Boston, where the Monitor is based. She remains there in an undisclosed location, Ingwerson said. “She definitely is not up for any public appearances,” the editor added. “We were totally shocked that she came to the newsroom [on Monday], we assumed the family was going to be quiet and stay together.”
Ingwerson said family members phoned the Monitor at 11 a.m. Monday saying they planned to bring Carroll by. She spent about 45 minutes in the newsroom before leaving. “We did not expect it, and did not expect her to address the newsroom,” he said, adding that the paper did not inform the press until later. “We wanted to keep it quiet so she wasn’t followed home.”
He added that Carroll, who had worked for months in Iraq as a Monitor freelancer, had been made a staff employee of the paper shortly after her abduction. About a week after she was kidnapped, Ingwerson said, Monitor editors discussed with her parents the change.
“We did it in consultation with her family because they had power of attorney while she was in captivity,” Ingwerson explained. “We did that so that she would have whatever benefits she needed and so she got paid while she was in captivity.”
Ingwerson said such a change in Carroll’s status also made her eligible for any worker’s compensation needs resulting from her abduction, but had no information on whether any were expected. He also would not say what her next assignment for the paper might be, or if it would include a return to Iraq.
“That is a conversation we haven’t had even among ourselves,” he said about the paper’s editors. When asked whether Carroll might return to Iraq as a correspondent, he added, “she seems awfully resilient, but she would have to suggest it.”
Ingwerson also shot back at the critics who had spoken out against Carroll shortly after her release for comments she made in a video while captive that criticized the U.S. for its Iraq occupation. The reporter has since said such comments were made under duress and only to avoid personal harm.
“I’ve been astounded by some of the criticism because it seemed so clear to me that she did what someone ought to do, and have been trained to do in captivity, which is get along and go along to survive,” Ingwerson said. “It doesn’t seem much more complicated to me than that.”
As for the Monitor’s ongoing Baghdad coverage, the paper currently has no staffers in the Iraq city. Correspondents Dan Murphy and Scott Peterson, who have been covering the city in recent months, arrived in Boston with Carroll and are not yet scheduled to return.
“We have no staff there right now,” Ingwerson said of the Baghdad bureau, but noted they would likely return. “It is going to be Scott and Dan, but I don’t have a date yet.”