City Journal: A Star is Born

Just when the Christian Science Monitor’s future looks bright, star reporter Jill Carroll goes on hiatus.

The Christian Science Monitor may have won Pulitzers, but it remains so enigmatic to the average reader that its website must explain that, yes, it’s a real newspaper, and no, it’s not a church mouthpiece. Then along came reporter Jill Carroll, kidnapped earlier this year while on freelance assignment in Iraq and released into a maelstrom of fame. The Monitor, which had by then signed her up for a full-time gig, hosted Carroll’s homecoming at its Boston headquarters, and late this summer printed a much ballyhooed 11-part series detailing her ordeal. The newspaper set readership records with Carroll’s series—Web page views went from about 120,000 a day to a peak of 1.2 million—and gave every indication that its most famous face would become a fixture.

So what can we expect next from the only name we recognize at the Monitor? Turns out, not much.

The ruby-haired Carroll, who shunned big interviews (and no doubt opportunities for quick cash) in order to tell her story in the Monitor, is now going mum again, stepping away from the paper to spend her fall across the Charles on a fellowship at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. Any momentum the paper picked up this summer with Carroll’s tell-all seems to be for naught. Folks at the Monitor aren’t even sure what Carroll will do when she comes back. “At this point,” says spokesman Jay Jostyn, “Jill and her editors haven’t discussed what her role will be.”

For the 29-year-old Carroll, the Shorenstein gig is certainly a plum one. The research center hands out fellowships to some pretty accomplished journalists (Dan Okrent, for one, who followed up his stint as the New York Times’s first public editor by accepting a fellowship last spring), and the work done there can lead to sweet book projects. Carroll plans to study a sore subject among all foreign correspondents: the decline of overseas news bureaus at a time of rising interest in international reporting. The question remains: Will she ever go overseas for the Monitor again?