Y2K Reporting Misses the Mark--It's Official!

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Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Y2K REPORTING MISSES THE MARK Experts Encourage Reporters To Ask More Questions

by David Noack

With the countdown to the new millennium in high gear, how are reporters and newspapers covering one of the biggest and most challenging stories of the year, the Y2K computer bug? So far, media coverage has tilted toward the extremes, including stories on people who are stockpiling food and water with the intention of heading for the hills as New Year's approaches. On the other end of the spectrum, publications have broadcast reassurances from public utilities, insurance companies, and local governments claiming they are well on the way to Y2K compliance.

Somewhere between these two extremes are the real stories: how much money is being spent (or wasted) to solve the problem; how programmers are struggling to fix billions of lines of computer code; how companies have developed contingency plans; what are the legal liabilities; what are the financial, economic, and business impacts; and what about the hidden issue of embedded computer chips.

(Who knows--maybe more reporters will see the light, now. It's won't happen though, unless their editors give them the time to do so.)

-- FM (vidprof@aol.com), March 03, 1999


The momentum for preparation will come by word of mouth. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to the media telling me the facts, and it's obvious when they put a spin on it. By the looks of the shelves at the grocery stores it's obvious that people are stocking up. One of the stores 2 weeks ago had 20 lbs of rice for $3.99. I have 2 rain checks, and they have not restocked, their warehouse is still out. I've also noticed that are 6 cans of an item placed neatly in a row and no cans behind them. So either they don't have the items available for restocking (they have to wait for the truck to come in), or the item is hard to get. At this point in time, the media can say whatever they want, I'm prepared.

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), March 03, 1999.

There is something intuitively comforting about the approach of "Well, you have this one extreme here, and this other extreme there, so the truth must be somewhere in the middle." But the reality is that this is without substance, it may or may not apply to the problem at hand, you have to understand the problem before you can declare where the "extremes" are.

In fact, this whole "middle of the road" approach is really geared to bureaucratic CYA -- if you take the middle road, and it turns out it was not the best approach, you are still covered, because it seemingly was the most reasonable approach. Tell that to your family when they are hungry and you did not stock up for more than a few days, because that seemed to be the most "reasonable" approach.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), March 03, 1999.

I must politely but firmly disagree Sir Jack;

The "truth" is in front of us - (the future) - so we can't know what it really is. It obviously must be at one extreme (Mr K's bump in the road), the middle (intermittant to lengthy failures of almost everything to almost nothing over almost everywhere to only a few places), or Gary North's (everything fails everywhere forever).

So I do think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I just can't figure out yet where the middle is! Which middle it will most nearly approximate, and what areas of the country (international too) will be affected to what degree. If more reporters would approach the issue like this - we might begin to get through without the country panicking.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), March 03, 1999.

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