Unlike Jill Carroll Story, Washington Post Leaves FNC Hostages Off Front Page

August 29th, 2006 6:21 AM

As Dave Pierre notes, some newspapers can be proven to find Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor a more newsworthy hostage than Fox News Channel's Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. It's certainly true of the Washington Post, which never put Steve and Olaf on page one, even after they were released. On Monday, in his weekly "Critiquing the Press" online chat, Howard Kurtz disagreed with his paper's record:

Wednesday, August 16: "Palestinian Forces Seek 2 Abducted Journalists," page A-9, 220 words. Wire service copy.

Thursday, August 17: "Newsman's Wife Makes Plea to Kidnappers," page A-19, 210 words. AP copy.

Sunday, August 20: "Journalists' Kidnapping Protested in Gaza City," page A-12, 256 words. AP copy.

Thursday, August 24: "Kidnapped Journalists Appear on Videotape: Group Demands That All Muslims in U.S. Jails Be Released Within 72 Hours," page A-18, 907 words by Post reporter Doug Struck. A-18? Wow.

Monday, August 28: "2 Abducted Journalists Are Freed in Gaza Strip: TV Crew Describes Forced Avowal of Islam," page A-8, 623 words by reporter Doug Struck.

Said Kurtz on Monday: "I thought it should have been on the front page. I would agree that their story was underplayed compared to the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, but Fox executives don't believe that was because many MSM types aren't big Fox fans. First, Roger Ailes initially asked other news outlets not to overplay the story for fear of jeopardizing the negotiations to free Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. Second, there are many more reporters in Iraq than in Gaza, and a fierce debate in America over our Iraq engagement, which in some ways turned Jill Carroll into a symbol of the dangers there. And finally, both female guests on my program yesterday agreed that gender is a factor. That is, the media are more likely to go into Natalee Holloway mode if the kidnap victim is a 28-year-old woman, as Carroll was, as opposed to the 60-year-old Centanni. Despite all of that, I believe the story deserved more attention, if only because Gaza must now be added to the list of places where it is very dangerous for western journalists to operate."

Without making a long list for Jill Carroll, whose captivity lasted months, let's just list a few prominent stories the Post did:

January 10, 2006: "In Ambush Lasting Seconds, U.S. Reporter in Iraq Becomes Hostage," page A-1, 1415 words by Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer.

On January 30, and again on March 11 and 12 and March 24, Carroll is mentioned (but not in the headline) of front-page stories on ABC's Bob Woodruff being injured and the fate of other hostages in Iraq, including a Virginia hostage who was killed.

March  31, 2006: "'Like Falling Off a Cliff For 3 Months':  Uncertainty of Captivity Ends for Reporter in Iraq," page A-1, 722 words by Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer. Inside on A-14, another 1096 words by Post reporter Jonathan Finer.

It should be noted that there could be another reason for the difference: Nexis shows Jill Carroll is listed as a freelance contributor to The Washington Post in a handful of stories in 2003 and 2004. Ellen Knickmeyer, the author of both front-page stories, was described by Carroll in her recent series of stories on her abduction as one of her "two close friends" at the Post.