Monday, March 21, 2011

Story idea: searching for disappeared journalists

From a story in the New York Times [permalink] about a foursome of NYT journalists who disappeared for a few days during the recent fighting in Libya:
[After two days of being taken from place to place by Libyan soldiers,] [t]hey landed on Thursday in Tripoli, where they were handed over to Libyan defense officials. They were transferred to a safe house, where they said they were treated well. They were each allowed a brief phone call. That was the first time since their capture two and a half days earlier that their whereabouts became known to their families and colleagues at The Times.

Their disappearance had kicked off an intensive search effort. The Times canvassed hospitals and morgues, beginning a grim process-of-elimination search. The paper also turned to a variety of people on the ground who might have heard or seen something -- local residents, security contractors for Western businesses, workers for nongovernmental organizations. It also notified American diplomats.

The State Department got word Thursday afternoon that the journalists were safe and unharmed, in a phone call to Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs ...
I'm interested in that middle paragraph -- the futile search. I wonder whose job that was, in the middle of a war, when they probably wanted all the stringers they could find to cover the fighting in various towns and cities, some people get a call that they're wanted, not for reporting, but to make the rounds of hospitals, jails and morgues, looking for a gaggle of American reporters. That would make a terrific premise for a surrealist novel, right down to the denouement in which, after a nightmarish journey across the war-torn landscape, the protagonist finds out that the journalists have been found safe, no thanks to him, in fact their whereabouts have been known for at least ten or twelve of the last harrowing hours that the protagonist has been risking his life to find news of them. Loads of irony along the way.

No comments: