June 21st, 2009
01:28 PM ET
14 years ago

NYT's Keller: Keeping abduction a secret 'an agonizing decision'

(CNN)- When news broke Saturday that New York Times Foreign Correspondent David Rohde had escaped from his Taliban abductors and was returning home safely to the United States, few even knew he had been kidnapped.

Although several media outlets were aware that Rohde was taken last November in Afghanistan while working on a book, most had agreed not to publish that information at the request of Rohde’s family and The New York Times.

Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, who recently returned from Iran, spoke about the difficulty of the decision.

“It was an agonizing decision that we revisited over and over again, but I also have a responsibility for the people who work for me,” Keller said on the Reliable Sources hour of CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Keller told Kurtz that as time went on, they reconsidered keeping the abduction a secret, but ultimately decided that “the wisest course for David’s safety was to keep it quiet.”

Remarkably enough, this wasn’t the first time that Rohde had been abducted. In 1995, he was kidnapped by Serb forces while reporting for the Christian Science Monitor from Bosnia. He was released after heavy interrogation ten days later.

Keller also spoke about the intense political climate in Iran while reporting from Tehran last week.

“In the days before the election, when the feeling was fairly euphoric and there was a sense that they might actually overthrow this regime, the fear went away for a while,“ Keller said. “But after the results were announced, the regime made clear that they wanted to enforce them, a lot of the fear came back.”

In response to criticism that the New York Times Executive Editor should be focusing on his own newsroom rather than traveling abroad, Keller insisted that the trip was a vital part of his job.

“I spent way more than I care to of my time thinking about the future and working on the future of the Times business model. But running a newspaper and a Web site is what I do. And to do that well, you have to get out and see what the story is.”

Filed under: Afghanistan • State of the Union
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Alfred E. Neumann

    One wonders how tough the decision would have been if it had not been a reporter. If it had not been an employee of the NYT!

    On the other hand, the Times will be bankrupt in a few months. I will not miss them!

    June 21, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. CNN = Moveon.org

    If it wasn't a NYT reporter, the world would have known the minute it happened. They look out form themselves and not anyone else or the country at large. They are a self-serving leftist organization under the guise of the "press." If this would have hurt Bush in any way, they would have published it in a heartbeat with no regard to the family, or the country, as they have done so many times before.

    June 21, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Tim

    A responsibility for the people they work with, but not a responsibility for the people (US military) who defend them?

    Agonizing indeed.

    June 21, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. rachel

    wonder what else we dont know with all the selective reporting going on.

    June 21, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. D. Tree

    This was very well done – glad they did it and glad he escaped.

    June 21, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. BILL, WI

    If it is the name of an active intelligence operative, namely Saddam's interrogator, release his identity and name. If it is the name of an operative who used to work overseas, keep the identiy secret. But now if it is the life of their precious reporter, keep the situation secret. But when they bash the military and former administration over an incident, they forgot to consider that it is the life of a soldier or a marine at stake when an enraged populus reacts.

    June 21, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |