Media folks, take the time to understand Dan's concern...greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
To the media, "Give us a reason to trust your publicly pubilished written response."
The following is a copied response from TB2000 thread "NY/NJ television reporter looking for locals" posted in this forum at: http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=000OsG.
An open letter to Declan .. his reply .. and mine. Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 21:06:29 -0800 (PST) From: DanTCC Subject: Re: Your NBC colleague To: firstname.lastname@example.org Hello Declan: On behalf of an NBC colleague, you asked for assistance finding families in the NY/NJ region who are making Y2K preparations and planning to go off grid. Perhaps I can help. First we need to deal with an issue of geography. I'm not in New York or New Jersey. In fact, I live in the northwoods of the upper midwest, thousands of miles distant from your desired area. Next .. I'd like to briefly introduce myself. I'm a 23 year veteran of the computer industry with a graduate degree in Engineering. My experience spans a host of computer, electronics, and allied fields from government and the military to the private sector. I'm also the former Director of Computer Services for a college. I presently teach college computer classes and also work as a volunteer with my state's Department of Emergency Services on the Y2K issue. Recently one of our state legislators asked me to participate with our Governor's Committee on Y2K. As a part-time writer for a magazine for the past ten years, I am a low-key member of the media. In my view, this doesn't paint me as an extremest, survivalist, or any of the other common names pundits so oft apply to people with a divergent yet prudent approach to life. Now then .. your request didn't fall on deaf ears, but it did fall on very sensitized ones. Many people view preparation as prudent, not alarmist, not extremest, nor any of the stereotypical labels often tagged to such actions. Unfortunately, past attempts by network or other media to cover this type of story have portrayed them in an almost cynical light. The reporters take liberties with the people by attempting to sensationalize the story. To achieve this, they use the words that most often seem to catch the ear (and the ratings) of the viewers/listeners. Subsequently, those who've been interviewed have inevitably been portrayed in a very uncomplimentary and often incorrect manner. On hearing of an approaching hurricane, people in Florida board up their homes and businesses and head inland. Are they labeled "survivalists". No. They're viewed as prudent. No one laughs when we insure our homes .. just in case. No one points a finger and calls a family foolish if they run for the basement after hearing a tornado warning .. just in case. No one thinks of a person as proffering "doom and gloom" if they advocate carrying the recommended winter-preparedness equipment in their cars in cold weather. Regrettably, media .. especially television .. seems bent on covering people who are preparing, and then add their particular bent or agenda to capture the attention of the viewer. The American Red Cross and FEMA have both advised it, so why should people who follow their recommendations be called anything but prudent? They shouldn't .. but it happens. Consider one year ago today. Quebec and New England were deep in the grips of a record ice storm. For many, power was off for five weeks. Even this year, some residents in the southeast US suffered through more than three weeks without power. Most were unprepared .. and some died. Had they taken steps to prepare in advance .. would they have been labeled "survivalists" too? It's difficult to say. When a serious accident occurs, it's common to see an over-zealous reporter shove a mic and camera in the face of a suffering victim. The crass lack of sensitivity is inexcusable .. yet it happens daily. Why? Because it's often seen as bolstering ratings. News is a very competitive business. We need to be first. We need to be exclusive. We need to be the most attention-getting. We also need to be aware of the feelings of those we interview. We need to be more empathetic. We need to show more understanding. Sadly .. these are all too absent. That having been said .. one of the most important things that we in the media can do is educate ourselves before ever trying to cover a story. This includes your "longtime technology reporter". I'll be blunt here. Even with 23 years of experience in the computer industry .. even with a Master's Degree in Engineering .. even with my many years working with government, military, and industrial computer systems .. even with all of that and more .. the magnitude of the Y2K situation caught me completely off guard .. and I'm not one prone to be easily affected by such events. The problem that we know as "Y2K" goes far beyond the computer on our desks. It's bigger than the computers in the office. Just because your company or organization thinks it's got its act together .. they better think again. Y2K goes beyond what almost anyone can begin to imagine. The best thing you and your colleagues can do would be to educate yourselves on Y2K. It's a time-consuming task. If you don't think you have the time .. make time. You owe it to your viewers/listeners. There's nothing worse in this profession than a half-baked job of journalism. We have enough of that already. Don't add to it. If you'd like to follow up on this in a fair and unbiased manner without a preconceived ratings-oriented or other sensationalist-based agenda .. I'll be happy to do what I can to assist. Conversely, if you wish to pursue the issue from any other perspective, please count me out. Based on responses from others who apparently know of your past treatment of this subject, and whom have replied to your post, I'm already predisposed to believe you're a member of the latter group. Am I in error? I had planned to share a Y2K media source website with you .. but given what I've just read in the way of the responses to your query .. I'm reluctant to do so. Please forgive the misjudgement if I'm in error, but lacking evidence to the contrary, it's all I have on which to base my decision at this time. As there are at least two sides to an issue, please feel free to clarify and/or refute the aformentioned impression. You may contact me at: DanTCC@Yahoo.com Regards from the upper midwest northwoods. Dan --- His reply .. and mine to his ... --- Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 22:39:46 -0800 (PST) From: DanTCC Subject: Re: Your NBC colleague #2 To: Declan McCullagh ---Declan McCullagh wrote: > > Dan, > > Thanks for writing. But truly, I don't need the background! I was the first reporter to cover Y2K survivalism nearly a year ago -- check out http://www.well.com/user/declan/y2k/ > > I'm not sure what you mean by "media source website." Groups like the Cassandra Project list a bunch of local groups. > > But playing hard to get will make reporters ignore you, not take you seriously. > > -Declan ========== Reply Separator ========== Declan: Not playing hard to get at all. In fact .. the site I referenced contained media-specific information. It's not a commercial site nor does it offer anything for sale. It's a plain English, logically oriented site with a number of specific links to clearly credible sources. And with regard to "...But playing hard to get will make reporters ignore you, not take you seriously." Interesting to see that you view caution in approaching someone on this issue as "playing hard to get". The fact is .. It's just the opposite. I had planned to share. Being a writer myself .. and having already been misquoted by ill-informed reporters, I had no idea who you were or where you were coming from, so to speak. In contrast to your perceptions, I'm heavily booked with a variety of media including radio, television, and newspapers. I'm able to impart a message without labeling those involved. Re: "... I was the first reporter to cover Y2K survivalism nearly a year ago..." Longevity on an issue doesn't automatically convey credibility, accuracy or understanding of feelings of others. What caught my eye was your choice of the word "survivalism" with which you elect to label people who prefer to take the steps they feel are prudent. That to me is at the heart of the issue. Do you label people who wear seatbelts "survivalists"? How about those who take precautionary steps to avoid the wrath of severe weather? Why then do you insist on attaching it to those who feel it necessary to follow the advice of the Red Cross and various federal agencies? It's up to each individual to take what steps they deem prudent, appropriate, and proper. Some people in the path of a level-5 hurricane see fit to go hundreds of miles inland away from the storm. Some don't. Do those who elect to leave get labeled as "survivalists". No. They are usually called "residents of an area" .. and sometimes "victims". I have yet to hear any network coverage referring to them as "survivalists". Perhaps by your term, it's unfortunate that there weren't more "survivalists" in Central America. Perhaps the death toll would not have been in the tens of thousands when Hurricane Mitch slammed ashore. Sadly .. people abhor labels. Labels tend to detract from the truth. Mr. Roger Boisjoly was labeled a "kook" by some. Ever hear of him? I'm sure you have. You strike me as fairly articulate and well-read. He was labeled too. They called him a "trouble maker" and a "whistle-blower". His message was ignored. As a result, our nation watched in horror as the Challenger blew up a mere 73 seconds after liftoff. By labeling him, he was put into a box. It meant to many that he was no longer credible. Morton Thiokol management bet that he was wrong. They lost the bet. Seven people paid the ultimate price for that gut-wrenching error. It appears to me that you prefer to play up the typical media agenda for ratings. By insisting on labeling people "survivalists", you impart an image of wild-eyed radicals to the uninformed public. That's a shame. For in doing so, I feel that I too must then be considered a "survivalist". I too am following the advice of the Red Cross. I too am doing what I can to help educate others to prepare .. just in case. You see .. those are the three magic words .. "just in case". I'd suggest you review the State of the State address given recently by the Governor of South Dakota. He was very blunt in his assessment of the situation. He was candid in his admission when he stated that he'd "bit his lip and kept quiet" on the issue until he could do so no longer. Perhaps you consider him a "survivalist" too? I also suggest you contact various credible sources in your own back yard. I've met many people in my recent travels who are members of the media, government, law enforcement, and other everyday groups who are preparing. I guess we're all "survivalists" in your book. It's regrettable that reporters of your ilk insist on covering this aspect of the issue in the manner you've selected. It does serious injustice to the public and to reputable reporters. It also gives cause to the public to ignore both the messenger the message at a time when they need to devote their fullest attention to both. Try dropping the lable. Try looking at people as just what they are. Everyday people. They are teachers. Members of government. College administrators. County maintenance workers. Employees of University Extension Services. Auto mechanics. Ministers and other clergy. Doctors. Nurses. Reporters. Yes .. even other reporters. By doing what they deem appropriate, are they all "survivalists" in your book too? Consider this: If Y2k turns out to be a big bump in the road as some predict, and people have taken prudent precautionary steps just in case, what harm is done? If people start now to gradually stockpile food and water, and this all is a big ado about nothing, they can eat the food, drink the water, and go on with a big smile on their face. They may even be a bit better equipped to deal with future unforeseen events. However... if Y2k turns out to be something serious, and people have NOT acted... can you even begin to imagine the potentially tragic outcome? By labling people .. the uninformed public tunes out to the message. When they tune out, they take no action. Wisconsin State Representative Sheryl Albers said it best .. "People who are prepared don't panic." By causing people to tune out, consider the possible consequences. Try sleeping on this for a bit and take another run at it .. without labels. What will it hurt? Regards from the northwoods. Dan
-- Dan (DanTCC@Yahoo.com), January 19, 1999.
-- Critt Jarvis (Wilmington, NC) (email@example.com), January 19, 1999
And we need to move publishing out from the ranks of amateur publishing.
This issue, many issues, are too important to be presented in a jumbled mess.
-- Critt Jarvis (Wilmington, NC) (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 1999.
Critt, wake up, would you, re the new media? They will always take what they perceive as "the safe road" on almost any issue, which normally means a "middle road" position. Take that ridiculous Time article. There is actually some really good information there, if you look hard enough for it -- the Red Cross personal preparation recommendations, the NORAD experiment of turning clocks forward, etc. But it is completely surrounded by all kinds of Right Wing Christian Survivalist Kookiness garbage mixed in with assurances from Responsible Authorities that Y2K is well under control. So the bottom line is: if Y2K turns out to be no big deal -- Time told us so! If Y2K turns out to be a disaster -- Time told us so!
Even if you could convince Declan et al, it would do no good in terms of changing anything. The position that will be taken will always be the one perceived as the "safest", regardless of what the truth is.
-- Jack (email@example.com), January 19, 1999.
Plus the fact that Declan, for all of his other good articles, provided at least one of the humunculi for the TIME articles.
-- Chuck, night driver (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 1999.
Plus the fact that Declan, for all of his other good articles, provided at least one of the humunculi for the TIME articles. errrrr "article" not "articles"
-- Chuck, night driver (email@example.com), January 19, 1999.
Time Mag is amateur publishing.
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 19, 1999.
Declan should interview his girlfriend, who, I've heard from the grapevine, has been preparing like gangbusters for neigh on a year.
-- look in his own house (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 1999.
"When you don't know what to do with your hands, you smoke a cigarette, when you don't know what to do with your mind, you read Time magazine."
-- Runway Cat (email@example.com), January 19, 1999.
seems to me part of the problem here (and this isn't aimed at any specific reporter) is that people get into media reporting because they think it's interesting and important...and then they assume that everyone else also believes that it's interesting and important as well. The result of this is that they fall for the warholian (is that a word?) myth that everyone will (and wants to) have 15 minutes of fame.
Now if one wants fame, if one wants to be a 'news personality' or whatever, then other concerns (such as a factual understanding of the technical background of a topic, or the concerns and feelings of those interviewed) are simply secondary considerations at best.
I would submit that one of the reasons that the newsmedia do not provide accurate coverage of most things is that they aren't intent on accuracy - that's really not their concern. More to the point, I would imagine that those who refuse to cooperate with the media out of concerns for privacy, accuracy, and so forth must baffle the reporters. Since *they* function on the warholian fame theory, and we do not, they see *us* as the odd balls...not realizing that they are really in the minority.
just my 2 cents' worth, Arlin
-- Arlin H. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 1999.
Let's be even more specific. The raison d'etre of media is to please advertisers. Period. This isn't evil or vicious. If they didn't, they'd be out of business. But it is real and it affects every aspect of coverage. Editors think about it consciously (yes) as well as sub-consciously.
Advertisers = corporations = Y2KNotReadyYetButEverythingIsOK-OK?
Gee, I wonder what the effect of that might be on editorial coverage?
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 19, 1999.
Instead of using TIME as an example of journalism, publications should use the June 2, 1997 "Newsweek" coverage of Y2K as a guide.
-- Kevin (email@example.com), January 19, 1999.