Pearl of Great Price

THat a group would think kidnapping a journalist would help its cause is a sure sign it has nothing much to tell the world.

Journalists want the truth to come out. Kidnapping them only keeps it in.

That simple logic will hopefully free Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. His capture last week in Pakistan by a shadowy group making various demands on the US - release of Pakistanis at Camp X-Ray and delivery of F-16 jets to Pakistan - shows how war can stomp on truth.

This particular war - on terrorism - will require as many new approaches for journalists in covering it as it has for the US in waging it. New types of risk require a new calculation of caution, especially when an opponent can be a fellow passenger on a flight or, in Mr. Pearl's case, someone luring him falsely to an interview in Karachi. (See story, page 7.)

Why do journalists take such risks? They enter danger zones to ferret out stories on behalf of readers who rely on the news to help them keep the world safe.

Like other reporters who have been captured, harmed, or killed in their work, Pearl isn't a glory seeker in writing about terrorists or being naive about the risk of gathering facts in volatile, violent places like Karachi.

Unfortunately, not every risk can be foreseen by journalists, whose caution skills can always be improved. But what remains steadfast is their service to the truth.

Now, if only those holding Pearl could have the same passion for truth.

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