Committed to the First Amendment
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/21/2001 8:00:00 PM
Line of fire
This magazine received an e-mail from corporate last week on the proper "glove-doffing" procedures for anyone handling mail. It was the sort of procedural missive from upstairs that cynical journalists usually hoot over. But it isn't so funny anymore. For all news organizations, this has gotten serious—and personal. Journalists find themselves in unfamiliar territory, suddenly at the center of the news as subjects rather than chroniclers.
The media, and particularly the media elite, have become a new target in the war between terrorists and the rest of us. There were clearly ways to infect more people with less warning than sending letters to media celebrities and politicians. The method of delivery seemed calculated to get attention rather than kill masses of people, although we suppose they wouldn't have minded doing both. A terrorist credo quoted more than once last week was something on the order of "kill one, frighten a million." The media, unavoidably, is a key factor in that equation. And by going straight to the media with the attack, the terrorists, whoever they are, appear to be trying to cut out the middleman.
That doesn't mean the media, or the government, can allow itself to be cowed. But journalists are the types that traditionally ride out the fire drills at their desks. Next time that bell goes off, we're joining the (we hope) drill. Let's all be careful out there.
Grounds for concern
Balloonists may hang suspended in the blue, skydivers can leap out of planes, crop dusters can dust, student pilots can learn and even corporate helicopters can ferry executives with impunity in some places. But the vast majority of news helicopters were still grounded in the major markets at press time last week. Why the disparate treatment? No one seems to have an answer. Certainly not RTNDA, which was on the Hill trying to get the restrictions lifted. Not the members of the House Aviation Subcommittee, although they were trying mightily to get the FAA representative at last week's hearing on the subject to explain. And, apparently, not the FAA representative himself, who passed the buck to the National Security Council and other security types, saying some of the reasons were "classified." Nobody from the NSC bothered to show up at the hearing, ensuring that the information-deficit circle would remain unbroken. It's time for that buck to stop and for those somebodies to figure out how to get news choppers back in the air.
Oh, God, spare us another Democratic commissioner's public-interest musings (see story, page 30).
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