August 26, 2006

Natascha Kampusch — the most coverage I’ve seen of an Austrian story

Posted in Austria, Natascha Kampusch at 8:06 pm by billdawson

There has been an extraordinary human interest story in Austria for the last several days and I am really amazed at the amount of international coverage. A visit to CNN’s Europe news page right now shows that the top story is “8-year kidnap: accomplices hunted“. And a video report by CNN’s Matthew Chance can be viewed here. This video, in which Chance interviews Natascha’s father, is currently the most popular on the site.

The story concerns Natascha Kampusch, an 18 year-old girl who was, until Wednesday, held captive in a small room (people are referring to as a “dungeon” or “cell”) for the last eight years by her abductor. As I came home from work on Wednesday, there were many helicopters in the air, which is rare. I don’t know for certain if they were related to the case, but in fact at that time the police were hunting for her captor after she successfully escaped. As my wife arrived home, she also noted the helicopters and said that the goings on must be about “Natascha”. I had no idea what she was talking about, and she told me the story. The case was huge news when Natascha was kidnapped.

Anyway my point here is not to re-tell the story, which you can find on just about any news site right now, but rather to say that I think this is the most international coverage that I have seen regarding an Austrian (and specifically Viennese) story since living here, with two possible exceptions: the forming of the ÖVP/FPÖ coalition government (which caused Austria to be sanctioned in the EU) and the disaster at Kaprun. Both of those events occurred very early on during my Austrian residency.

Even the local press is taking notice of the international coverage. Die Presse (Austria) has a fairly comprehensive round-up of the scope of the coverage. It begins by mentioning Matthew Chance’s report then lists others. By Thursday (just the day after she escaped), the New York Times, El Pais (Spain), La Tercera (Chile) and Figaro (France) already had stories. Then on Friday basically every newspaper had the story. The Guardian, notes Die Presse, had Natascha’s photo on the front page. The BBC covered the story, and, of course, newspapers in the German-speaking areas had big stories, including Bild (sensationalistic), which had a full page and many photos.