THESE ARE GOOD times to be a journalist. Never has our profession been more handsome. I, personally, am getting better looking by the day. I work in an office full of exceptionally attractive people. Think I'm bragging? Just look at our peers. You've got Anderson Cooper as the breakout star of Hurricane Katrina, Brian Williams taking over at NBC, and George Clooney playing a newsman—not even the on-camera talent!—in Good Night, and Good Luck.
Oh, but that's just TV and movies, you say? I beg to differ. The arrival of a new book on my desk only confirms what the mirror tells me each morning. Co-authored by Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton, American Hostage: A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release (Simon & Schuster, $25) sums up its plot in the verbose subtitle. But it's the jacket photo that I predict will make journalism school the new Ford Modeling Agency. Not only are Garen and Carleton serious freelance reporters who've worked with PBS, The New York Times, and Newsweek, but they are hot. Seriously hot. He's got the stubble, the salt-and-pepper buzz cut, the Leica-style camera slung casually over his arm. And what's with the rag he's kneading with his hands? It's a stylist's prop to suggest the blindfold he wore when seized by Shiite militia and held for 10 days in August of last year. But it also makes him seem more rugged—he hasn't left Iraq behind, you see; he still lives with the memories of sand and terror every day. (Or at least every day when he's not working on this book.)
As for Carleton, draped over Garen's shoulder, there's a reason for their pose that probably makes a film adaptation inevitable. Their story has a Hollywood ending, and she's definitely camera ready: the perfect skin, the perfectly tousled hair, the distressed jeans, the blouse with sleeves rolled up, suggesting she, like her fiancé, is ready at a moment's notice to return to the field—once we get this pesky book tour out of the way. (Perhaps with a side trip to the spa. And maybe Prada, if there's time.)
Some of my colleagues bemoan the loss of influence of the mainstream media (MSM), wailing about declining newspaper circulation, staff cuts, and the rise of amateur bloggers on the Web. I say, bring 'em on—so long as they look like Wonkette (aka Ana Marie Cox) or Yahoo's new stud-in-the-war zone, Kevin Sites. We should all follow the example of The New York Times' remarkably well-preserved Maureen Dowd, who, when she purrs her way onto TV talk shows, makes Charlie Rose, Robert Novak, and company look even more like the fossils they are. The MSM is overdue for a makeover. Who wants to work at The New Republic when you could work at The New Republic of Shattered Glass—an office populated with Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson, and Chloë Sevigny.
Books are increasingly about book tours—how you come across in person or on camera. Having a great jacket photo is often the key to getting a book reviewed. Obviously, we're glad that Garen and Carleton's story didn't conclude like that of Daniel Pearl. But it sure didn't hurt with their publisher that their happy ending had two great faces to sell it.
And when the movie version of American Hostage is made? Sorry, George Clooney. Thanks but no thanks, Cameron Diaz. You're just not good-looking enough to play this pair.
Micah Garen will appear at Third Place Books, 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 25.