Current TV cheers after 140 days of silence
The women, who had been arrested at the Chinese border in March and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, were pardoned Tuesday after former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to seek their release.
“Welcome home” greetings festooned the cable channel and website operated by the San Francisco media company that blends professionally produced video with audience-generated content.
In keeping with the grassroots flavor of Current TV, its website invited visitors to send greetings (see embed below) to Ling and Lee. Using this slick tool, it was even possible to use your webcam to upload a message like this or this.
The multimedia celebration contrasted sharply with the tight-lipped approach Current took from the moment the women were captured on March 17 after straying across the North Korea border from China while reporting a piece on North Korean refugees.
Rather than following the approach often employed by news organizations to focus a heavy degree of public attention on captured journalists, Current TV resolutely declined all public comment on the plight of the two correspondents.
The capture of the Ling and Lee roughly coincided with the detention in Iran of Roxana Saberi, a contributor to National Public Radio who was released in April after some four months in captivity.
NPR and other media covered the Saberi case continuously in the interests of generating sufficient pressure to gain her freedom and Newsweek is employing a similar high-profile strategy in trying to gain the freedom of its reporter Maziar Bahari, who was detained in Iran in June.
Current TV, which is owned in part by former Vice President Al Gore, took the opposite approach in the belief that quiet, back-channel diplomacy – as opposed to public pressure – might have a greater impact on the secretive North Korean government.
As it turned out, the under-the radar-approach employed by Current TV was hardly novel.
At the time Current TV was working feverishly behind the scenes for the release of Ling and Lee, the New York Times successfully persuaded several media outlets for seven months not to report on the kidnapping of one if its correspondents held for ransom in Afghanistan.
In the end, neither public nor private efforts freed Timesman David Rhode. He escaped his captors in June by climbing over the wall of the compound where he was being held.