Is missing reporter News?
But I understand the idea. Don't make a story out of it so we can work to get him back instead of giving potential terrorists a chance to harm him and garner their own headlines.
However, once the story is out there, it would irresponsible to ignore it, especially if the same standards are not maintained for every other story.
In this case, it is gawker.com reporting that NBC's Richard Engel is missing in Syria. Mr. Engel is a fine journalist who has done incredible work as a foreign correspondent, telling stories lately about Egypt's revolution and now Syria's civil war.
I hope his missing is a problem with communications in what seems like a war-torn country that may have damaged or turned off communications equipment. The fear is that he is injured or kidnapped or worse. His is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and he did not seem to shy from the danger in order to do his job.
The story, though, from gawker.com deals with a serious issue: Blackouts of news coverage. Several comments, the majority on the page, were critical of gawker for writing about the story, in effect calling them out for writing about a blackout on the story and then 'violating' it.
What happens is the news agency doesn't want to report on its reporter missing as that may inflame the situation and endanger the reporter. That's fair. But in this business, or calling as some wish journalism would be, once a story is out, it's out.
Gawker correctly reports all the agencies in Europe that are reporting the news as well as people on social media.
But to insist it be held and to criticize others for reporting the news is rather disheartening, especially with all the (sometimes, rightful) criticism of news outlets (such as NBC) for the endless reporting of others' tragedies, the latest one being the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut. In fact, the rush to get the story out led to news agencies wrongfully reporting who the shooter was, including The Oakland Press, where we used wire reports that later had to be changed.
Many expressed desires to see the media:
- Leave the victims' families alone,
- Not flood the area with multiple reporters falling over one another,
- Not show the culprit's face and tell a story that would perhaps inspire another crazy person to act as a copycat in seeking out such media attention,
- Not politicize the event by jumping into the natural discussion about guns and gun violence and America's gun culture.
News agencies routinely ignore such requests because of the thirst to know as much as possible about something as fast as possible.
Same goes for a story about a respected journalist who goes missing while on the job in a place that generally accounts for the first or second story on NBC's "Nightly News."
And criticism that a news agency applies different standards when covering itself than it would anyone else are fair.