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Smart story continues to capture worldwide interest

By John Daley | Posted - Nov. 10, 2010 at 6:09 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The trial of Brian David Mitchell is drawing the kind of significant media attention Utah has not seen in some time, but it's still a far cry from 2002 and 2003 when Elizabeth Smart's story had the nation riveted.

Reporters from a variety of outlets are back in Utah this week, very interested in Smart's story of survival she's telling in her own words on the witness stand.


Just the journey she went through was just so awful and so compelling people want to know what happened.

–Janet Shamlian, NBC News


"I think her name remains known to so many people, and [they're] concerned about her and how has she done after these eight years. And just the journey she went through was just so awful and so compelling people want to know what happened," says NBC News correspondent Janet Shamlian.

NBC, for example, has featured the story on Nightly News, the "Today Show" and MSNBC.

"This is a national story. It's not just Salt Lake's," Shamlian says.

Shelley Osterloh, now an NBC producer, worked for KSL-TV at the time Smart was abducted and covered the huge volunteer effort.

"It was a busy place. There were a lot of people up in those foothills that were usually pretty empty; and just to get up to the house, you couldn't get through the traffic and through the satellite trucks," Osterloh says.

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She recalls a media frenzy in the jittery days after 9/11, unmatched now.

"It was crazy. It was a crazy story. It was difficult to follow: leads all over, people jumping to conclusions," Osterloh says.

Media came from all over the world and even included a pair of reporters from Japan. Those reporters knock on the door of Salt Lake City's then-spokesman Josh Ewing, asking for help in broken English.

"It was just an example of how we had so many international reporters here covering the story," Ewing says.

"The pace was incredible," says former Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas. "Initially 18- to 20-hour days were common, and the crush of media. I believe I logged about 10,000 calls from the media ... during that nine month period."

Thomas was in the center of the storm, where he got a flurry of pages from 60 Minutes, 20/20, Barbara Walters and Stone Philipps the day Elizabeth Smart was found.

"There were two or three helicopters overhead. I mean, it was out of a movie," Thomas says. "There were journalists everywhere. I was chased until I got under the yellow tape, and I'd never seen anything like that. And what was interesting is by that evening there agents trying to buy the story; I mean dozens and dozens."

Driving the interest -- then and now -- is a powerful, very human story.

"It's a great story of resilience," Shamlian says.

This story has really become a "do you remember where you were when?" kind of story. The interest is still very broad, and the national media attention shows that.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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