Before foreign correspondent Richard Engel and a group of journalists escaped their captors in Syria, NBC asked other news outlets to refrain from reporting on their situation. The outlets who honored NBC’s request did so out of an abundance of caution; the Poynter Institute, a prominent journalism-education group, withheld a report so as not to increase the danger Engel and his colleagues faced. The website Gawker, which opted to stop honoring the media blackout, justified publishing its story by noting that NBC provided only vague information about the threat.
News outlets must balance their duty to report news and that of protecting one of their own. But in this case, heeding NBC’s request — made in the name of safety — was the only prudent choice, not least because Syria has been the deadliest place for journalists in the world.