The New York Times reports that Shirley Sotloff, whose son Steven Joel Sotloff is a freelance journalist being held by ISIS, says in a video message to her son's captors: “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book."
It adds that "People of the Book" is ”a reference to Christians and Jews." In some stories online, "Book" has a lower-case "b."
However, look for mention of Steven Sotloff's specific religion in the Times article -- or in coverage of Shirley Sotloff's video in the Miami Herald, the UK Mirror and other mainstream news outlets -- and you won't find it.
At first glance, the omission of Sotloff's faith might seem like a classic "religion ghost" -- a case in which the media fails to "get" the importance of the religion angle to the story. But is it? Or is it an intentional effort on the part of the mainstream media to protect the kidnapped journalist?
An odd alteration to a New York Times story suggests the latter. The lengthy profile of Sotloff that the paper sent out through its wire service originally included reference's to the faith of Sotloff's mother and grandparents. That information does not now appear in the Times online version of the story -- and, unusually for the Times, no note was appended to the piece to indicate that any edits or corrections had been made.