America was captivated nearly a decade ago when Elizabeth Smart, then just 14, was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City bedroom. She was found nine months later about 20 miles away, and the man and woman who abducted her were eventually convicted. Now, The Daily Beast reports that Smart, who is 23, will join ABC News, appearing on Good Morning America and other network programs sporadically to discuss and analyze missing persons cases. It's a familiar trajectory: Nancy Grace and John Walsh (of America's Most Wanted) have famously parlayed personal tragedies into successful television careers. But is Smart's hire over the line? (Watch a report about Smart's new gig.)
Yes. She's being exploited for ratings: It's easy to understand why ABC would be looking for a way to cover missing persons cases, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. As the Casey Anthony trial proved, our "national obsession" with missing children makes the coverage a "surefire ratings grabber." But it's "hard to not smell a heavy whiff of exploitation" here. Turning Smart into the "go-to-girl" for horrible stories about children takes advantage of her backstory for the purpose of "parental fearmongering."
"Elizabeth Smart: ABC's new victim correspondent"
And it just feels "creepy": There's no way around it, says Glynnis MacNicol at Business Insider. Smart's been hired "to shill her own terrible story every time another family is suffering a similar ordeal." It's clearly a ratings ploy, which is "creepy and disheartening." That's not to say this isn't a wise move on the part of Smart herself. She now has a regular, paying gig, rather than "being hounded by bookers every time another child goes missing."
"CREEPY? ABC has hired Elizabeth Smart to be their missing persons expert"
Actually, it makes perfect sense: Certainly, this isn't a gig that most people with Smart's past would be "eager to take on," says Donna Kaufman at iVillage. But then again, "Smart is a pretty extraordinary person." She's proven her poise while discussing her kidnapping on a huge number of talk shows, and has taken on lobbying for missing persons legislation "as a personal cause." Her work has proven that she's "ready and eager" to help children and families who have been through ordeals similar to her own. "Hopefully, this new job will let her do exactly that."
"Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart hired as ABC News correspondent"