How do the media really see y2k? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Has anyone else noticed something a bit strange here?

A very consistent theme on this forum (and other fora fucused on y2k) is that the media have been lulling an unsuspecting populace to sleep on the issue. Yet I've seen half a dozen outside commentaries about the media's y2k coverage, and every one of them claims that the media have been going out of their way to create an apocalyptic vision out of nearly thin air.

The proposed reasons for the media's position are interesting. The "committed" propose basically three possibilities: That the media report on what happens, and y2k hasn't happened yet and they can't get any good pictures (procedural argument); that reporters are lazy and technologically clueless and have been buying into the PR spin without investigation (passive argument); and that the government has explicitly muzzled effective y2k coverage to keep the masses from panicking (active argument).

The "outsiders" have proposed that the media have created a scare story where one doesn't exist in order to build clientele (readers and viewers) and sell advertising; that the most mediagenic people are those who have retreated to armed compounds and get excessive coverage (which tends to exaggerate the issue) and (most interesting) that reporters are lazy and technologically clueless and have bought into the scaremongers' tales without investigation!

Both sides agree that if only the media were energetic, honest and independent, and really dug into the actual details behind the self-serving announcements and vocal extremists, they'd quickly discover that y2k is (overhyped and nothing to worry about)/(devastating and unavoidable). Pick one.

What's strange is that *both* of these positions are based on exactly the same coverage! As an illustration of people seeing what they choose to see regardless of what's there, you could hardly find a better object lesson. But will anyone learn that lesson? Not a chance. It's so much easier and more *comfortable* not to make the effort to see the other guy's viewpoint. And after all, why bother to exert that effort? The other guy is *wrong*!

-- Flint (, October 26, 1999



Most of us are here searching for answers. Most of us are not here to engage in any kind of schoolyard contests. Most of us are not computer professionals. Our investigative budget consists of a $20 per month ISP and a couple of newspaper subscriptions.

As you point out, Time-Warner, CNN, Dow Jones and the others haven't done jack sprat in the way of investigating what some (admittedly self-proclaimed) experts have tagged as the greatest threat to our economy and society in a generation.

Maybe an investigation would yield nothing. Unfortunately we are not blessed with that knowledge.

I know that the issue is too complex to investigate an industry (oil, for example) fully by some kind of journalistic IV & V, But at least an attempt could have been made to review and publicize the data upon which Exxon claims to be ready.

Really, it doesn't matter now. It won't be long at all. Then we'll all know.

-- Puddintame (, October 26, 1999.


IMHO, the media has lulled the public to sleep on this issue:

Lin k

October 25, 1999

Year 2000 activists share tales of public apathy

By Barnaby J. Feder N.Y. Times News Service

BOULDER, Colo. --The crowd in the small, overheated hotel meeting room sighed when Douglas Stewart described a meeting on year 2000 computer problems that he had helped organize in Santa Fe, N.M.

"The Chamber of Commerce invited 1,100 small businesses, but only 30 people showed up," said Stewart, 67, who works as a management consultant.

They listened sympathetically as Lesleigh Lippitt reported the recent demise of a year 2000 forum that had been meeting on Thursday nights since March in a suburban Milwaukee cafe. "No one is coming anymore," she said.

No one was shocked to hear about the collapse of an effort to promote year 2000 preparedness neighborhood by neighborhood in Santa Rosa, Calif.

"I was ready for people not to listen, but I wasn't ready for my fellow workers to go south on me," said Alan Jones, describing how backers of the effort seemed to evaporate this past summer as he tried to organize it.

These are tough times for the thinning ranks of grass-roots activists trying to convince Americans and their local leaders that the year 2000 computer problem, better known as Y2K, poses risks that demand serious family and community preparations. So tough that about 40 of them from around the country decided to take time out at a three-day weekend gathering here last week for some face-to-face commiseration, planning and emotional refueling with their peers.

"I hope we leave here a little less depressed, a little energized," said Paloma O'Riley, one of the meeting's organizers, in welcoming the group. "Mostly I want us to feel a little less isolated."

The goals might seem modest but they were readily embraced by the group, which included many who talked privately during meals of finances and personal relationships severely strained by their commitment. There was conversation about retirement accounts cashed in and second mortgages to cover expenses that resulted from a complete loss of income for those who left jobs to work full time on year 2000 issues, to thousands of dollars spent on books and preparedness items passed out to fellow citizens.

The gathering came amid a steady diet of upbeat progress reports on year 2000 repairs and contingency planning.

Though the American Red Cross has recommended that households equip themselves as they would for a major storm or earthquake, banks and other industry groups have begun telling customers to think of the long New Year's weekend as just that, a long weekend.

"It sounds like they are advising us not to run out of beer and chips," Steven Davis, a prominent year 2000 consultant to local governments in the Washington area, complained earlier this month.

Before the meeting, the attendees had for the most part existed for each other only as e-mail correspondents or names in news clips. Jim Brown, the police chief of Hudson, Ohio, is often quoted in news articles because he has been among the most outspoken members of his profession on the need for preparations. When he introduced himself, there was applause. One woman burst out happily, "Oh, it's you!"

The meeting was thrown together on a shoestring. Boulder seemed a natural rendezvous site because it has been a hotbed of year 2000 preparedness advocacy -- and as one organizer, Kathy Garcia, head of a Boulder County year 2000 group, noted, it is often described as "27 square miles surrounded by reality."

Public advocacy has always been a job for industrial-strength citizens, as many of those who attended the meeting knew well from work on other causes dating to the 1960s -- though perhaps none, like this one, with a built-in deadline. Some came looking to close this chapter of their lives. Dan E. Strimer, a songwriter, carpenter and coffeehouse worker who helped found a grass-roots year 2000 preparedness group in Nashville, said he planned to focus on getting his new organic farming venture going in the next few months.

"You put your soul into Y2K and you don't necessarily get anything back," said Strimer, who added that he would be plunging back into year 2000 work if the rollover to next year brings turmoil.

But most were looking for reasons to continue the fight against what they see as mainstream complacency on one side and survivalist, head-for-the-hills lunacy on the other.

"I am mostly concerned about people who don't have the money to stockpile," said Carl Johnson, a Bloomfield, N.J., high school math teacher who founded the grandly named Essex County Coalition 2000 last spring but has little to show for months of networking efforts to various community groups.

In addition to an airing of frustrations, the weekend included opportunities for sharing high points and ideas that seemed to work.

Stewart, for example, had been able to write a monthly year 2000 column in his local newspaper in El Dorado, N.M., a town 10 miles south of Santa Fe. Stewart said the heightened awareness that he and concerned neighbors generated had led to a number of preparedness steps that had once seemed unlikely, including a decision by a local bank to install a backup generator to make sure it could operate during a power failure.

Others spoke of neighbors who seemed to ignore the information they passed out and invitations to meetings on year 2000 preparedness, only to thank them months later. Frequently, strategies that had worked in one area were reported to have run into stone walls in other communities. The Santa Fe Community Foundation proved to be helpful in reaching out to nonprofit groups in New Mexico, but Boulder advocates struck out when trying to persuade the United Way to take on that job in their town.

Some attendees reported strong support from emergency management officials in their communities, while others said they had been brushed off as crazy amateurs.

"It's weird what works and what doesn't," said Rosa Zubizarreta, a translator and veteran of anti-nuclear and bilingual education battles. She received a modest grant this year from the Center for Y2K and Society that allowed her to work full time on year 2000 preparedness in Oakland, Calif.

The efforts at mutual support were not relentlessly earnest. Saturday night appeared on the agenda as "Fun, Fun, Fun." Ms. O'Riley passed out silly hats and year 2000 door prizes, after which the Nashville duo of Strimer and Nell Levin led the group through a series of parody songs with lyrics by Stewart. The Notre Dame fight song, for example, became five verses beginning with:

Three cheers for Olde Y2K,

Stock up on Twinkies without delay,

Get some water and firewood too,

We'll spend a fortune before we are through.

Later the group turned out the lights, created an indoor alternative to a campfire with flashlights, and shared year 2000 horror stories.

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 26, 1999.

I thought it was interesting the other day when Bill Gates was quoted about people saying he was trying to take over the world. He said the person who was trying to do that was Rupert Murdoch. Interesting considering Murdoch's media holdings, anyway.

-- mommacarestx (, October 26, 1999.


Go read Charlie Register's piece at the Westergaard site. Here's the link. I think he does a far better job of explaining the media's postion than you did.

-- Dog Gone (, October 26, 1999.

Dog Gone:

Roleigh Martin is a y2k activist. He is investigating *why* the media have downplayed y2k, not *whether* they have. I tried to point out that I've seen quite a few others trying to investigate *why* the media have overplayed y2k, and not whether. The "whether" part comes from the observer's basic orientation. What was interesting to me wasn't so much the reasons those of each orientation marshalled in favor of their perspective, but the fact that opposite perspective led to opposite *observations* in the first place.

We see what we choose.

-- Flint (, October 26, 1999.


We see what we choose, only if we're exposed to it in the first place. If your point is that doomers see the media coverage differently than the pollies, okay, sure.

The extreme polarized camps on this follow the coverage closely, looking at all information available. We're the minority. The vast majority get rewritten press releases, and they are probably 95% optimistic. I'm being generous.

-- Dog Gone (, October 26, 1999.

Flint -not that this subject is important, but why are you trying to make your point - "that the results depend on who's observing" ?

I have seen some "news" articles say that there are people being alarmist, or some accusation along the lines of other "press" or "media" being panicked. Yet, those articles never mention WHO it is that's being so worried. They act as if most people are worried and here's why you shouldn't be.

I don't think the people have ever been too concerned. Most articles have a "spooky" headline, give some stupid scenarios, then explain the 1900 problem, then say it's no big deal. Most newspaper articles are written in that format.

Even the "outsiders" as you call them, don't say who is creating the panic. It's wierd that they even assume the "media" is doing that. Name me one article from a Magazine, Newpaper, or TV, that has suggested any serious preparation - has said 'get independent and protect yourself from infrastructure failure' .

The comments about other media sources trying to be alarmist, is to probaly show how ridiculous that stance is, thereby in a roundabout way, telling people to be calm and don't do anything "kooky", like fall for that crap.

-- Gregg (, October 26, 1999.

As usual, this post tells us incredibly more about your weird embrace of ambiguity EVEN WHEN THERE ISN'T ANY than it does about media coverage. Or not. It's ironic that you are far more "New Age" than Diane has ever pretended to be.

"Both sides agree that if only the media were energetic, honest and independent, and really dug into the actual details behind the self- serving announcements and vocal extremists, they'd quickly discover that y2k is (overhyped and nothing to worry about)/(devastating and unavoidable). Pick one."

No. You're dead wrong. I have NO IDEA what the media would discover if they were investigating deeply. They MIGHT have discovered that Y2K IS overhyped, you bozo. Which would be WONDERFUL.

The plain reality is they HAVEN'T investigated. The Vanity Fair article is probably the only serious investigative article that ever appeared with the Wired article (not a very good one) in second place. That's it.

Talk about "seeing what you choose" -- you're the master. Or not.

-- BigDog (, October 26, 1999.

It's called Y2K Disconnect, Flint.

From Roleigh Martin Part II:

I start my Year 2000 speeches by discussing why the major media and politicians inherently cannot take any fixed-date future event seriously. Simply stated, the majority of the economy concerns non-essential goods. If government and the media urged serious preparations for any fixed-date future event, whether it is Year 2000 or a comet-impact threat, the essential goods industries would be so swamped with orders that they would not bother advertising anymore. Meanwhile, the bulk of the economy would lose people's discretionary income and stop advertising, as the return on advertising expenditures would be negative. Therefore, the more the media warns about such an event, the quicker it risks going into bankruptcy.

-- a (a@a.a), October 26, 1999.

Perhaps I should take more time, and think this through before commenting. But, no, I am just going to jump in and have my say. As a former member of the mainstream media (daily newspapers, large metropolitan cities) for over ten years, I have my own take on the media and y2k.

There are a number of factors that have caused this unusual "noncoverage" of a major story like y2k. Some of them have already been discussed well on these threads.

In my experience, reporters are rarely, usually never, approached by an editor to either spin a story a particular way or not cover a story. I never was discouraged from covering a story the way I wanted to. And I was usually stumbling over stories that no one had ever heard of before (like AIDS when it first came out).

But nowadays reporters are pressured, often to write a story a day, and it is hard to investigate stories in depth and write about them accurately. It is easier to go with a press release, build on it as best you can, find something "interesting" to hook like a survivalist in a bunker for example, and then move on to the next topic.

Even if you find the story on your own, you usually do not have the background or the time to do justice to it in a way that y2k, with its many factions, factors and spin cycles, demands.

Y2K is a broad-brush problem. It actually touches most reporters on each of their individual beats. Different angles are required for very different reporters, those who cover the ports, law enforcement, politics, business, social issues, education, lifestyle, etc. Most reporters are not experts on y2k, even if you remove the technical angle from the equation.

Y2K presents difficult socio-cultural problems within the journalistic "hive". Reporters are very worried about "falling for" hype, getting caught by something that has been overblown, getting labeled by their peers as buying into a goofy thing. Reputations and turf within the newsroom are guarded carefully. It is best to be skeptical of anything that smacks of weird, extraordinary, apocalyptic, outside the fold. Unless you can tweak it in your story as odd, so you can be off the hook.

For some reason, many journalists have not developed good internet skills. They are not C-Span addicts, chatroom addicts, forum addicts or one-item researchers. To understand Y2K, I have had to immerse myself in information via the internet for 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is hard for me to communicate with other reporters regarding the depth of the subject. The good stories that were out there waiting to be found 6 months ago, some are just now discovering.

Reporters take the pulse of the public as a whole. If the public does not care, they are not going to spend a lot of time getting hooked by what the government has already labeled as "extremists." It is very difficult to get their attention. Reporters have also seen how little the people cared about issues during the Clinton impeachment. Most are not going to beat their head against a wall, trying to sell a story that the public does not find "sexy".

I have noticed a growing culture in some newsrooms that does not encourage true journalistic investigation. A hotshot reporter ready to confront the government or an industry over independent verification and validation can get subtle cues from other reporters who are just trying to file their daily stories.

Add to this the very normal inclination of print journalists in general now to wait until something has happened (i.e. grid goes down, riots occur) to cover it rather than dig up information on what might happen. A hurricane is not sexy until there is a hurricane watch, or a warning, and there are lines in the store.

Reporters can be hooked and spun by TPTB rather easily. A possible cultural breakdown from Y2K means nothing to them -- it is gauzy -- but say there may be terrorists and it is an easy hook for them. "Dog needs home" is not as cool as "Dog rips throat out of girl." So sometimes you get no coverage, and sometimes you get hype. Rarely in between.

These are some of the reasons many reporters don't Get It. Even when an issue stares them in the face. The fact that there is such a wide gap between pollies and doomers is a fascinating way to get into the story and figure it out. SOMETHING doesn't add up. Reporter: Yawn.

I remember during the time of the Watergate break-in, most reporters in my major city newspaper could not care less. There was only one, a sportswriter, who was foaming at the mouth to find out what happened. He said: "There's a story here somewhere..."

To a certain extent, reporters do not want to rock the boat and "cause panic". Their rules on this generally follow the construct of their own journalism culture and that of their peers. They don't want to get too excited about a story. They don't want readers to get too excited and then find out the reporter overstated the case. There has been a trend in the past five years also to try to restate the government's side of things so the people will understand.

Many reporters want to be politically correct in coverage. If there is a riot, some editors now prefer to call it a disturbance if they can. A killing is racially-motivated if a black person is the victim of white crime, but can be buried if a white person is the victim of black crime. I have seen abortion covered by a prochoice reporter who proclaimed her bias to the newsroom in general, and declared a crusade on the issue. She was not challenged regarding her objectivity... hers was a politically popular stance in the newsroom. This is not a y2k issue per se, but it speaks to how careful reporters have become, even subconsciously, to following the herd culture of the newsroom -- the general political slant of their peers -- and avoiding speaking out and standing out on an unfamiliar, odd topic, in the midst of a general newsroom subculture.

To their credit, reporters are not influenced by "advertising revenues" or the bottom line of the paper. I have not seen editors lean on reporters because of advertising or economic issues involved in a story, although there is a slight shift occurring in some papers in which there is communication between news and ad staffs, and much discussion among reporters about it. Generally, reporters dont want to talk to the ad guys in the paper and could care less what the advertisers think.

One reason more reporters should have been doing more on this topic is that they dont work as one unit, micromanaged by the government. There are so many newspapers, so many reporters, and any one of them could have pulled the letter back in July by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to all 50 governors on possible catastrophic consequences. If one or two had done that, and consistently followed up, others in the business may have started to poke around.

The rule of thumb is that if a reporter wants to file a big story, he or she expects another paper to catch it and run with it, if it is a credible story. You don't want to be out on a limb by yourself, day after day, with a goofy topic, getting your butt burned. Competition is cool, as long as you are first. And better. All the time.

There is too much information out there to overlook this issue. There is too much of a split between the real experts -- doomers and pollies -- to ignore the issue. There is too much at stake. And finally, there are too many levels of contingency planning for worst case scenarios by the government, the military, industry and other countries to accept without question the lack of encouragement for similar contingency plans among the general public. Any informed reporter should see that the "story math" does not add up. The story is smoldering but the journalists cannot smell the smoke. Reporters generally do not like a steady diet of unsubstantiated, self-reported happy-face figures. It is unusual that they accept them now.

The bottom line, I believe, is that many in the media are overworked, underinformed, unmotivated, overspun and stymied by their own cultural biases. They have fallen asleep during one of the biggest stories of our generation, if not in history.

-- (normally@ease.notnow), October 26, 1999.

Big Dog:

You are certainly making a effort to read what wasn't written. Amazing what determination can do.

[As usual, this post tells us incredibly more about your weird embrace of ambiguity EVEN WHEN THERE ISN'T ANY than it does about media coverage.]

No, I was talking about different discussions on the orientation of the media, written by people with different orientations. I said that these people formed opposition conclusions *about the media* based on the same media coverage. This is true.

[No. You're dead wrong. I have NO IDEA what the media would discover if they were investigating deeply. They MIGHT have discovered that Y2K IS overhyped, you bozo. Which would be WONDERFUL.]

Permit me to doubt this. Given what you've posted here, no depth of journalistic investigation that failed to ratify your viewpoint would be considered sufficient. I'm willing to state (unambiguously) that I feel the media have covered y2k diligently and in quite praiseworthy depth, given the limitations of the media. I believe they've found a lot to be worried about, and a lot not to be worried about. And they can't predict the future any better than we can.

[Talk about "seeing what you choose" -- you're the master. Or not.]

I reported the observations of others and commented on them. I made no value judgments other than that I found opposite conclusions from the same material to be curious. Try rereading my original post from a non-attack viewpoint, and you'll see what's there.

-- Flint (, October 26, 1999.

<that reporters are lazy and technologically clueless and have been buying into the PR spin without investigation (passive argument); ...and (most interesting) that reporters are lazy and technologically clueless and have bought into the scaremongers' tales without investigation!>


You mean reporters like the one from L.A. Times (who contacted me) and the one from FOX (who contacted me & who I set-up interviews in Washington D.C.) ... who had done NO backround research ... except for what they read in other publications ... or heard from TV broadcasts.

Neither of these two were on the internet. Neither had done in-depth research. Neither had e-mail addresses. [I couldn't believe it.]

I assumed that ALL reporters would be on the net. Boy was I wrong.

And, they expected ME to give them them the input for their articles and TV series??


I spent over and hour with each of these "reporters" on the phone - talking about technological stuff - supply chain stuff ... global inter-dependencies stuff ... not survivalist stuff.

The LA TIMES person asked me to email her husband at work because she didn't have access to the net. But he didn't have Office97 and couldn't download Word.

The FOX reporter wanted me to make copies of my research and Fedex to her - At my cost. FOX wouldn't pay for FEDEX charges. Think I sent them anything? She was leaving for D.C. the day after I talked with her. LOL - The FOX reporter was upset with me later ... because her "interview-ees" talked down to her.


And the Technology Editor of TIME MAGAZINE who I met with in November '97 ... who chose not to run a story about "embedded systems" because he couldn't see where it was a problem. And, when it came out that embedded systems actually WAS a problem ... said that someone else already got the scoop ... so TIME Technology wouldn't be writing about it.


I gave up.

You're a waste of my time. [And many others.] I rarely read entire posts from you anymore.

You're a BORE.

Each and every media person who contacted me ... was a waste of my time. And there were 10+ more from the media who contacted me ... TV, radio and newspaper.

IMHO - It's too late. It's a d*mn shame.

And, it's a shame that some people who initially spoke out in public and want to tell the truth and help others ... now have had to hide behind "monikers".

And, it's unfortunate, that there are also others who see this as a "game" ... and hide behind monikers, and: - lie - embellish - create fear - create confusion - distort fact, which is out there in public record.

I put you in the group to "create confusion and distort fact" camp. JMHO.

If the government wanted to have someone post on these threads [which I think they're doing], they'd probably have someone like you do it. I'm not saying that you're employed by the government. I'm only saying that, if I were the government ... I'd pick someone like you to post on these threads.

It always amazes me the depth of your knowledge in various areas. Not this particular thread though.

I'm not a "conspiracy" person, but would assume that the government would think that someone like you was doing an effective job.

YOU AREN'T. [just my humble opinion]

My perception has nothing to do with "conspiracy". It has to do with "business logic". I was the owner and president of a national marketing research company with 15 full-time, in-house employees ... with over 10,000 people recruited on a contract-labor basis ... of which 3,500 +/- were utilized on a monthly basis.

Looking forward to seeing your next flippant comment, Flint.

-- Cheryl (, October 26, 1999.


The time period when the media did cover Y2K in some detail was from about Thanksgiving of 1998 to mid-March of this year. I clearly remember realizing on March 15th that news articles on Y2K were suddenly becoming scarce compared to what they had been. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but that drop off in coverage I noticed came only five days after a media conference about Y2K, the press and panic:

Also, and I give credit to Pshannon for pointing this out last month...9/9/99, which everyone knew was not going to cause significant problems, received far more coverage in the mass media than the Senate's 100 day report did at its release just a week or two after 9/9/99.

Finally, you might disagree, but I think that the average American will be startled by the number of Y2K failures and supply chain problems that are likely to occur in January--startled not because there would be TEOTWAWKI in January (I consider the odds of TEOTWAWKI happening quite small), but because in my opinion, the typical American is only expecting possible inconveniences for a few days and then Y2K would all be over with.

I was sitting around a table with several other people the weekend before last when the topic of Y2K came up. Most of these people are in their 30s and all of them are online. All of them (except me) agreed that Y2K is mostly hype being pushed to sell Y2K fixes to people who don't need any fixes.

When I heard one man say he was thinking about buying a new PC--not because he was concerned about Y2K but because he wanted to give his mom his old PC so she could have e-mail--I asked him if he had a pre- Pentium PC. When I found it was indeed an older PC, I told the guy that many PC's four or more years old needed to be patched or upgraded. He told me with complete confidence that what I said was just not true. This guy truly believes that all PC's are Y2K compliant as is.

In my opinion, after the kind of press-release-as-news-story coverage we've seen about Y2K in the mass media for the last seven months and seeing the undue attention that 9/9/99 received, there are going to be a lot of very surprised people in January--surprised that Y2K was something that ended up having a significant impact on them or someone they personally know.

-- Linkmeister (, October 26, 1999.


<For some reason, many journalists have not developed good internet skills. They are not C-Span addicts, chatroom addicts, forum addicts or one-item researchers. To understand Y2K, I have had to immerse myself in information via the internet for 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is hard for me to communicate with other reporters regarding the depth of the subject.

EXCELLENT post. Thanks for taking the time to analyze and explain so thoroughly. I admire you for making the effort and taking the time to investigate ... while so many others haven't.

<The bottom line, I believe, is that many in the media are overworked, underinformed, unmotivated, overspun and stymied by their own cultural biases. They have fallen asleep during one of the biggest stories of our generation, if not in history. >

So true. What a shame.

-- Cheryl (, October 26, 1999.

normally@ease: That was a good example of an Awesome Post. I think we can safely surmise you're not Declan McCollough, or however you spell that twerp's surname.

-- a (a@a.a), October 26, 1999.


At thread 00A97C

User attempted 4899877888891290 byte download


-- a (a@a.a), October 26, 1999.

Normally--what you wrote really does ring true and isn't a shame that there isn't some reporter out there with the b@$$s to make a story out of this? Is y2k more a statement about posturing to peers and covering behinds--not just reporters now at the end of the story, but of those all along the way that could have known and chose not to? If so, what a tragically---narcessistic--- adolecent end to a promising country. Flint---I think I follow you and agree---is it not just these blasted blind guys and the elephant thing all over again? People of good will and good intelligence perceiving completely differantly the same object?

-- John Q (, October 26, 1999.


You stated quite well the personal level of the printed media.

May I suggest from my experience in newspapers that

editors & publishers can and do directly influence the results

of their staff.

Could it be that they are caught in a strangle hold. A strangle

hold of "national security." I know this is hard to believe, with your

knowledge of the media, but think back to the secret meeting in the

White House. The press secretary was asked at a press conference,

"What was discussed at the meeting?" He replied that the fact that

there was a meeting is public knowledge, but that the content of the

meeting was a national security issue. It was secret and he would not

discuss it, period. Case closed, no more comment would be allowed.

Could this possibly explain the lack of editorial direction?

-- no talking please (, October 26, 1999.

What secret meeting? I am familiar with Sen. Fred Thompson commenting on Senate briefings that were classified, but this sounds different.

-- Dog Gone (, October 26, 1999.

Another current thread about the media and Y2K can be found here:

-- Linkmeister (, October 26, 1999.

no talking please:

Perhaps some editors do try to influence their reporters. It has been my good fortune that I have not had that experience and neither have any others that I have been in contact with at major dailies. I did have one minor flap over an apparition of the virgin mary story, but i turned around and sold the idea to the religion editor, not the community editor who was freaked by it. So it ran.

If I were pressured that way, I would simply find another paper. There are plenty around. And it is a very competitive field, where reporters who break stories are valued.

In any event, a reporter over the years learns many techniques to counter influence by colleagues or stonewalling by TPTB. There is ALWAYS a way to get the story. With Y2K, it is sufficiently broad enough that one does not have to depend on a classified meeting. Although there are ways to challenge whether the meeting is indeed classified, etc.

You can nudge facts out. You can work in tandem with another reporter and good-cop/bad-cop them. You can dig up documents,write the story and ask for comments. If you cant get in a meeting, you can interview periphery sources. You can dig up contrasting views. You can get someone on the record in a story that just begs for the other side. You can take a national spin and place it at the feet of the little girl next door ... how will it affect her? How will it affect her if she has leukemia, or kidney disease, or needs a y2k compliant medical device, or lives in a god-awful climate. You can do an analysis as to why things dont add up, or maybe what would it take for things to add up.

If your editor is not interested, you can plug the story to another editor at the paper. You can team with another reporter and plug the story idea again with new supporting facts. If the paper is not interested, you can (sometimes) freelance to another publication.

There are enough ways -- especially with the wide ranging scope of y2k -- to find angles that simply cannot be ignored. You can, through the internet, build a network of sources in each of the 120 cities targeted by the Dept of Defense so you know what is happening everywhere before anyone else in the business. This story leaks like a sieve, regardless of national security.

Yes it's tough to get the story. And, yes it is totally possible to get the story.

-- (normally@ease.notnow), October 26, 1999.

Flint -- cut to the stupid chase. They DIDN'T investigate Y2K. That's all I said. It's unchallengeable. It has nothing to do with ratifying my viewpoint -- I SAID that investigations might have RATIFIED a polly viewpoint, didn't I? Try to read and think independently for a change.

-- BigDog (, October 26, 1999.

Dog Gone, I don't recall the exact date. I believe it was probably Dec 98 or Jan 99. Joe Lockhart was the press secretary at the time and he was the one who refused to answer the question. He then followed up as I recall with some sort of a veiled threat to the White House Press Corp in attendance.

I will see if there is a transcript available.

-- no talking please (, October 26, 1999.


Strange indeed. Sort of a *round up the usual suspects* approach from both ends. CYA at its best.

Just finished (9PDT) watching PBS' Y2K:The Winter of Our Disconnect. Ugly program. Pollyville start to finish. Perhaps it *balances* the religious cable programs at public expense.

Anyway, as a dedicated news reader, listener, watcher myself I'd ask your OPINION about the media on this issue one way or the other. Your observation is keen but I'd like to know what you think about it. You're tough to pin, but you brought up this clear disconnance.

-- Carlos (, October 27, 1999.

a wrote:

"User attempted 4899877888891290 byte download"

Is this true? Can the sysops confirm this?

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (, October 27, 1999.

normally: Thank you for taking the time to share your insights here. It goes a long way towards explaining what many here perceive as a lack of professionalism by the mainstream media in covering this subject.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, October 27, 1999.

I have been "inside" a major news story a dozen times in my life, not counting Y2K. The ONLY time any reporter got the facts right, was the NY Times reporter on the Morris INTERNET worm, something like twelve years ago.

Never attribute to malice that which can be accounted for by incompetence.

-- ng (, October 27, 1999.

Well, I see the conspiracy theorists are at it again, their views of the world marred by only a few glimmers of sanity in the posts above.

Another way to think about this that not one person has mentioned is that: Maybe Y2K isn't that big of a problem. Maybe it isn't teotwawki. Maybe it's isn't even a bitr.

Maybe reporters at first listened to predictions of doom and gloom and then at every key date, saw the Northites and Hyatts get it flat wrong when nothing happened.

And obviously there are lazy bums out there. But maybe the others have satisfied themselves that it's not as important a story as you think it should be. Deal.

-- Declan (, October 27, 1999.

"Another way to think about this that not one person has mentioned is that: Maybe Y2K isn't that big of a problem. Maybe it isn't teotwawki. Maybe it's isn't even a bitr.

Maybe reporters at first listened to predictions of doom and gloom and then at every key date, saw the Northites and Hyatts get it flat wrong when nothing happened."

"Maybe it isn't EVEN a BITR". Right. It's incompetence. Thanks for outing your OWN incompetence again so clearly.

-- BigDog (, October 27, 1999.


Thanks much for the media assessment... it helps.

And Declan, no matter what you currently think of Y2K, and least youll have a background construct to recall... next year... as Shift Happens and stories unfold. Dont toss your files and contacts yet.


(Stan, dont know what a is referring to. Huh a?)

-- Diane J. Squire (, October 27, 1999.

Oh, I'm crushed. Biting remarks. I shall go and pine and write some pollyannaish articles now.

Or maybe not. A more general point is that every special interest group wants more media coverage. Yes, including you folks here. You don't always get it. Y2K is not going to be as bad as some of you think. Deal.

-- Declan (, October 27, 1999.

Interesting comments and a few very concise observations on news media (social pressurein general) "group think" ---> and its influence on what hte public hears and reads ---> which then influences (determines) what the public "thinks" ---> which, soon followed by a poll and a few re-released press releases ---> lead to the reinforced group think.

Look, this press attitude is the ONLY difference between Nixon's being chased out of office and Clinton being "hailed and heartied" into office in 1992, then retaining in 1996 and in the impeachment of 1998. The national media bias is very real, and is very deep in every political/economic/tax/policy question asked, and in whether (and how) each question is answered or ignored or re-spun into a different subject, and in whether each answer is even reported.


The "secret" press briefings alluded to above were an explicit White House strategy of a series of six media briefings, interviews to selected reporters from Clinton, and of press luncheons. NO topics were ever released - the press invited specifically excluded independent members from the media who don't follow the Clintons' religion. (For example, Fox news channel, CBN, and the Washington Times were excluded.) NO press leaks of what was covered have ever leaked out - so we don't know what was told to the press, nor do we know whether the press was threatened if stories do leak. WE DO KNOW EXPILICITLY that when the White House is covered "in a bad way" - that is - when it is asked tough questions - that it responds by denying that reporterr future access and publically ridicules the reporter.

Telling, isn't it? Getting kicked out just for asking questions - by Larry Flint wasn't kicked out (but rather welcomed for digging dirt on republicans and Democrats in the middle of impeachment - wasn't he?

Access to information is a reporter's lifeblood - combine this with an existing 94% national press bias (that many claim they voted for Clinton twice!) and you have no reason to assume that the national press will want to do anything to indicate anything that will embarress this administration - and will do anything to embarrass (and then will continue to re-emphasize, and re-emphasize - even when the story is proved false - anything that harms its opponents.)

We don't know what was said at these briefing - almost definitely Kosovo - the media propagandfa campaign began immediately after the briefings - and the bombing started 4 weeks later. Certainly, nothing about impeachment was covered - both sides didn't want it brought up.

If y2k was discussed - it was disparaged and ridiculed - Clinton was doing that publically already by that time. Most likely - it was 'winter stormed" - then "keep your money in the bank". The y2k terrorism-induced issue may have been mentioned - if at all. The FBI had been pushing this for a while, but nobody else had picked up on it until this June/July.

In February and March - the fed government was promising "everything would be fixed by March" - and no cities saying anything at all. So, most likely, it was not emphasized.


The y2k story isn't sexy - it's frightening in its implications. Fright doesn't sell anything the newspapers (and particularly TV) are selling. They have no customers (advertisers) who want these stories of confusion, unpredictability, and uncertainity. They want no stories telling anything to predict disruption in the economy. The economy (stock market profit) is only thing keeping Clinton in office - it's his only not a scandal.

It's also the only thing he has no control over.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, October 27, 1999.

Yes, there is media bias. Yes, the national media (especially television) control a lot of the mindthink out there. Yes, most reporters get the facts wrong. Yes, reporters often depend on someone else to define the Big Picture for them. Yes, access to information is a reporter's lifeblood. Yes, this present administration is one of the best at controlling access (remember the reporters who did not get to ride in the bus with Clinton during his first campaign, unless they wrote good stories about him?)

But there are hundreds of other newspapers out there. Granted not with the same clout. But good coverage of unprecedented big news is not ignored forever ... if it comes from a Detroit paper, or a St. Petersburg paper ... or a Cleveland paper ... I maintain most of the media is asleep and does not have the background, the passion or internet skills to ask the questions, and ask them repeatedly with good follow-up. And, no Declan, I don't believe they have asked all the questions and received all the answers and know that there is no story. The questions are still hanging there.

Losing access to information because you are not a player is tough. Sometimes you need more than one reporter. (There are techniques here I won't bother to go into on this thread.) Sometimes you need more than one news organization. Sometimes you need better sources, overwhelming sources. But it can be done. You can get the story even if you are shut out of the White House press corps. But you have to want to get the story. You have to want to look for the story.

You keep asking the questions, and maybe it does not turn out like you think it would. But you keep asking the questions as long as there are discrepancies that don't make sense.

There may be some reporters doing spin dances because they are afraid of consequences if people discover and react to the truth. But I don't know reporters like that. They would not be reporters; they would be flaks,information manipulators. The reporters I have known (most of the good ones are retired) don't care a rat's ass about reaction to their story by advertisers or the economy. Truth is truth. The story is the story. People need legitimate stories because in the long run THEY deserve to be the ones to make the choices. That's the way the Fourth Estate works. Consequences count: When the people are informed.

I do not believe most reporters are holding back because their editors say "the big picture would be hurt by coverage and its consequences." Stop thinking about the media, as powerful as they are, just in terms of national television, cable and a few top newspapers. There is enough power out there among hundreds of newspapers that true investigations could be done. Unfortunately, most of these thousands of daily newspaper reporters are either asleep at the wheel or too drowsy to follow a legitimate investigative thread.

If they were convinced there were questions to ask about the possibility of a catastrophic scenario, they would ask them. Maybe not the few at the top of the "national heap". But darn sure hundreds of others would, from Buffalo to St. Louis.

They just don't know what questions to ask. They don't know what the issues are. They don't know there is a problem. (A disconnect problem at the very least.) They have forgotten the math. They have forgotten the pulse. And they are all busy reading the same newspapers you are.

-- (normally@ease.notnow), October 27, 1999.

Ummm, I sort of going to wade in on the side of the Doomers on this one.

The problem is two fold.

1) Reporters dont usually have much of a technical background. They may have taken some science or engineering courses in school but they almost never have a practical feel for the subject. There is an exception to this in the reporting on PCs and computers, witness Declan, Cringley and Mossburg of the WSJ. But by and large, especially as it comes to things like Power Generation or Nukes, or Chemical Engineering the ability of reporters to tell the beef from the bull is sadly lacking. Time Magazine wrote had an article a long time ago in which it mentioned that losses in High Voltage Power Transmission were due to static in the lines. Yeah, right.

2) I think there is also a natural tendency to be skeptical about things you really dont believe (Alien Abduction) and things that sound plausible like High Voltage lines causing cancer. Both are really based on Junk Science but the second sounds more believable and reporters dont have the training, experience, and probably the interest to really check into it.

-- The Engineer (The, October 27, 1999.

Maybe reporters at first listened to predictions of doom and gloom and then at every key date, saw the Northites and Hyatts get it flat wrong when nothing happened.


I don't think it had anything to do with the fiscal year "spike dates." The drop off in news coverage happened before April 1st.

-- Linkmeister (, October 27, 1999.

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