It's a book almost everyone hopes will never be needed, but, with the financial help of the Carnegie Corp., the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation has created "A Journalist's Guide to Covering Bioterrorism."
RTNDF, which provides training and support to electronic journalists, says such a guide is needed in part for reporters who may be "struggling during a rapidly unfolding event to present the facts as clearly and objectively as possible" and in part because recent experience suggests they themselves may be the objects of attack.
The book is not a survival guide for reporters, but an attempt to "increase the quality of their reporting and analysis" by collecting the information they will need to relate to their viewers and listeners in case of such an attack on the U.S. or elsewhere.
The 47-page booklet includes warning signs of an attack, relevant laws and treaties, a glossary, contact list, and details about various weapons including anthrax, smallpox and plague.
The idea for the guide originated in fall 2001, after the Radio-Television News Directors Association was forced to cancel its September convention because of 9/11. The association held a satellite teleconference on bioterrorism, concluding that "journalists had a need for information on subjects that had not been a major focus up to that point," says RTNDF President Barbara Cochran.