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Elizabeth Smart to work as ABC commentator

Published: Thursday, July 7 2011 8:13 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart is taking a job with ABC News as a commentator focusing on missing persons and child abduction cases.

The Utah woman who was kidnapped from her bedroom at knifepoint, raped and held captive at age 14 by a Salt Lake City street preacher can provide viewers with a unique perspective, network spokeswoman Julie Townsend told The Associated Press on Thursday.

A deal with the now 23-year-old has been the works for several months and she could be on the air within the next few weeks, Townsend said.

"We think she'll help our viewers better understand missing persons stories," Townsend said in a telephone call from New York City. "This is someone with the perspective to know what a family experiences when a loved one goes missing."

Smart was kidnapped from her family home in the dead of night on June 5, 2002, by Brian David Mitchell, an itinerant street preacher whose writings have revealed he took the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl so he could practice polygamy.

Mitchell, 56, was convicted in December on federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex. He was sentenced in May to life in federal prison without parole.

An appeal of Mitchell's conviction has not yet been filed.

At a news conference after the sentencing, Smart said she was looking forward to a new and "beautiful" next chapter of her life, including working on behalf of missing children.

"I am looking at all the different options and trying to decide where I can make the biggest difference, where I can have the biggest effect for good," Smart said May 25 outside Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court.

She and her father, Ed Smart, also used the news conference to highlight several missing persons cases and talked about the creation of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which will focus on protecting children from falling victim to kidnapping and sexual crimes.

In an email early Thursday, Smart's spokesman Chris Thomas said the BYU music student wants to use the media position to further her goals.

"Elizabeth is committed to giving back and getting involved where she can make the greatest difference through child advocacy work," Thomas wrote. "Partnering with ABC provides a powerful tool to help her accomplish this."

The scope of Smart's assignment has yet to be fully defined, but ABC expects she will contribute across the spectrum of the network's programs and formats, including appearances on Good Morning America, Nightline, ABC News and radio, Townsend said.

Louise Degn, an associate professor broadcast journalism at the University of Utah, calls the hire timely.

"There are so many strong news stories about abused children, children who have been killed … that people are really interested in this issue now," Degn said. "It's come out in a way that it's never come out before. And because Elizabeth Smart has both the name identification and the knowledge … this is a perfect fit."

Ed Smart said Elizabeth's main priority is finishing her degree at BYU, so she will continue to live in Utah.

Financial details of Smart's contract with the network were not disclosed.

Contributing: Carole Mikita, KSL

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