Experts discuss security-media tensions
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
4/20/10 at 5:18 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY — Competition is not always a good thing when it comes to the reporting of national security issues, a national media symposium panel concluded Monday.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Time magazine Editor-at-Large Mark Halprin and University of Oklahoma journalism professor Mike Boettcher discussed the conflict between the public's right to know and the government's need to control information during national emergencies.
"Yes, there is a public right to know, but when does the public's right to know get triggered?" Napolitano said. "That is not an easy or self-evident judgment to make."
Napolitano said she believes the public is not entitled to information that "imperils the ability to apprehend" wrongdoers.
Boettcher, a long-time network news correspondent, and Halprin said many news organizations no longer have the relationships with government officials that allowed them to work out differences about what should and should not be reported.
Instead, the Internet and new media have created additional pressure to put speed above accuracy.
"I think we have two basic challenges," Halprin said. "One, we need serious news organizations in this country that can do serious things. They can do investigations, they can press government officials in a respectful but firm way.
"The thing that's not in the public interest is the decline in trust and relationships," he said. "Even with old media like The New York Times, there is more of an instinct that the government may not be telling us the truth, or we're going to lose this story to a competitor, so we have to go with it."
"The media is so competitive, the pressure to jump in on a story is huge," Napolitano said.
That can lead to problems for the media as well as government officials. Napolitano used last Sept. 11's false report of an incident on the Potomac River as an example. Boettcher alluded to early reports following the Oklahoma City Bombing that a Middle Easterner was suspected.
"The importance of that pressure cannot be underestimated," Napolitano said.
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365
Janet Napolitano, United States Department of Homeland Security, speaks at the Oklahoma City National Memorial on the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World