How New York Times and Wikipedia Saved David Rohde

They kept the news of his capture quiet

Early last week, Maine, US-born journalist David Rohde, a reporter for The New York Times, managed to successfully escape the grasp of his Taliban captors, in Afghanistan, and to safely return home. Most of the world did not learn about his capture until he succeeded in making his daring escape, and there's a good reason for that – more than 34 major news outlets were silenced by a joint effort between The New York Times and Internet giant Wikipedia, not an easy feat.

Oddly enough, getting America's largest networks to hush about the capture was not the most difficult thing to do. What was infinitely harder was keeping the people away from posting on Wikipedia. If the news had broken that Rohde had been captured, and the media had gotten a hold of the story, then the value that the journalist had in the eyes of the Talibans would have increased, and they might have even considered killing him live, if they had thought it would harm American interests.

A certain anonymous Wikipedia user from Florida gave the website's editors the most problems. Day and night, they were constantly moving in and deleting his/her posts. After several days of doing this, the user started sending a lot of “hate mail” to the editors, and continued to post content about Rohde's capture. The thing is that there was no way for Wikipedia's editors to contact the man/woman that was posting, because no contact data were made available.

With the journalist safe in friendly hands, a debate broke out about the implications and repercussions on the decisions that The New York Times and Wikipedia made. While most people believe the initiative was the most human thing to do, and the efforts noble, others say that only the fact that Rohde worked for the paper was enough for the publication to sit on the story. A number of people give the examples of other kidnappings, where the paper had no problem covering the story broadly, even when it concerned an American United Nations official, kidnapped on February 3rd, 2009.

The issue is highly debatable, simply because it seems to be an inconsistent move on the part of the American media. TV networks, Internet outlets and newspapers in the US are known for their so-called “rigorous ethics,” which “prevent” them from not breaking a story. However, oftentimes, even the Army criticized the media, on account of the fact that its stories placed the lives of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq in real danger.

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