Preparers directly called "Kooks and Wackos" and Journalists should lie. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Many interesting points we've discussed covered here.

This is from Fox News Sci/Tech area:

Media Seen as Key to Preventing Y2K Panic 1.20 p.m. ET (1720 GMT) April 6, 1999 By Marjorie Olster NEW YORK  As journalists turn their spotlight on the millennium computer bug, government experts hope the barrage will calm the public's fears rather than inflame them.

Journalists, for their part, are concerned that because the story of the Y2K bug is changing so rapidly they cannot be sure just where their responsibilities lie.

Top government Y2K experts are fairly confident the U.S. infrastructure will not collapse on Jan. 1, 2000, but they worry that fear of computer failures will ignite public panic.

Information is being touted as the most potent weapon in the battle to prevent a possible year-end run on banks, gas stations and mutual funds, and the media is seen as a critically powerful force in shaping public behavior.

At a recent Media Studies Center forum in New York called "Y2K: The Press and Preventing Panic," two of Washington's leading Y2K trouble-shooters urged reporters to be generous with reassuring news and helpful advice on do's and don't's. "The issue to deal with is panic. The issue is overreaction ... that's where the risks are," John Koskinen, head of President Clinton's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said.

The so-called Y2K problem arises because many older computers were programmed to recognize only the final two digits of a year, for example 68 for 1968. That has fanned fears that computer-controlled systems will fail or malfunction in 2000 if they do not recognize 00 as 2000.

It was clear from the panel discussion that in Washington's view Y2K risks are quickly changing from a technological to a psychological problem. Koskinen said he saw little danger that major U.S. power, communications, transport or health care systems would stop working with the advent of 2000.

Federal Reserve Board Governor Edward Kelley, charged with overseeing the U.S. central bank's Y2K preparations, said reliable information was as important as the technical work.

"I think you are part of the story," Kelley told an auditorium full of reporters. "Probably the most important single element that's going to tell the tale here in our being able to successfully navigate through this Y2K millennium bug challenge is going to be how that public reacts to it."

The forum, attended by representatives of many of America's leading media organizations, was evidence of the importance top government officials are placing on the media's role in maintaining public calm.

Journalists  "Throw Us a Lifeline"

"We are drowning in a sea of conflicting information," Jeff Gralnick, executive vice president of CNN Financial News and one of the panelists, said. "It's an incredibly difficult story to cover. And everything is in conflict."

He lamented the lack of a unified government stance, saying, "We need a common reporting language and a common reporting document, a common understandable 'report card' that we can measure you against."

Koskinen acknowledged that in many areas there was a lack of information, especially on the preparedness of businesses and governments in other countries. "The problem with a lack of information is the less you know the more you naturally assume the worst," he said.

One of the big problems inherent in Y2K coverage is trying to hit a moving target. As everyone races to beat the clock and ensure their computer systems will work properly, preparedness information is often out of date by the time it hits print.

"Facts have a very short half-life," Kelley said.

Koskinen said many reports were simply snapshots of the situation at a specific point in time. "We have to separate fact from fiction. What is now fiction may have been fact at one time." he said.

Kelley suggested a number of prescriptions that news stories could offer from giving advice to small businesses to urging contingency planning and offering how-to pointers.

"We hope the media will be a powerful voice in urging the public to seek legitimate information, maintain perspective and simply act with good common sense," Kelley said.

He urged reporters to hold opinion leaders and providers of public services accountable for accurate information and said they should carefully weigh information and check out assertions of "so-called experts" before reporting them.

That advice went against the grain of some reporters. "We have to remember what our responsibility is, and it's to report, not to recommend," said CNN's Gralnick.

Miscellaneous Complaints and Criticisms

One often heard complaint about Y2K coverage is that it focuses too much on a small fringe group who are preparing for the new millennium as they would for nuclear war  organizing neighborhood militias to defend streets against looters and stocking bunkers full of food, water, guns and ammunition.

The January/February issue of the glossy British design magazine Wallpaper features a couple on the cover in their lavish bunker brimming with champagne, fine foods, board games, a computer and, of course, a generator.

"It's so easy to go do stories on the wackos" one audience member said. But that only foments an atmosphere of crisis.

The tone of media coverage is evolving away from emotional headlines like Newsweek's June 1997 "The Day The World Shuts Down" with its litany of disaster scenarios to a more sanguine view of the dangers, with a sarcastic eye on the doomsayers.

The public is thought to have little interest in having newspapers, magazines and airwaves inundated with endless hours of coverage on Y2K.

Joan Konner, publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review and a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, said that while journalists have an obligation to pursue the truth they must also consider its impact.

"What are you first? Are you a journalist or are you a citizen or are you a human being? Sometimes those roles come into conflict in our profession," she told Reuters.

"It is not in our interest in journalism, or in the citizens' interest, to create panic. Excess, particularly with an unknown, can create panic. It may be in our interest to sell newspapers or hype a show, but I'm not sure the facts warrant that." ) 1999, News America Digital Publishing, Inc. d/b/a Fox News Online. All rights reserved. Fox News is a registered trademark of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. ) 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

-- Jon Johnson (, April 07, 1999


I do believe this is the third time, possibly the fourth, that this article has been posted to this forum. Yesterday there were over 60 new threads created

-- Redundancy makes it tough (to@keep.up), April 07, 1999.

"Federal Reserve Board Governor Edward Kelley, charged with overseeing the U.S. central bank's Y2K preparations, said reliable information was as important as the technical work."

Reliable information is as important as the technical work.

I'd appreciate it if someone with a bit more knowledge ellabotated on this for me.

If I'm correct the fact that they can fix a system, since it is interconnected to such an extent that corrupted data can undo the work so to speak.

What are the chances that they will experience corrupted data and what are the details of such an example?

Just looking for some more meat to sink my teeth into.


-- Thomas G. Hale (, April 07, 1999.

? You seem to imply there are NO nitwits associated with Y2K? Seems I have seen a number of posts from preparers complaining about reporters interviewing 'kooks and wackos' rather than more sensible Y2K preparers. Or maybe you think Gary North is 'middle of the road'?

-- Paul Davis (, April 08, 1999.

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