News Organizations Provide Security
By Seth Effron, Ed Fouhy and
Media Nation Staff
Monday, July 26, 2004
It may seem to some of the journalists at the national political conventions that
they're being prepared to cover hostilities in Basra, Iraq, rather than politics
in Boston, Mass.
Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, Knight-Ridder newspapers
and The New York Times, have required their staffs to attend classes on personal
safety and how to deal with acts of terrorism.
Knight-Ridder newspapers hired Centurion Risk Assessment Services to provide
a mandatory one-day training session for all news staffers covering the national
political conventions. Knight-Ridder, which operates 59 newspapers in major cities
such as Philadelphia, Miami and San Jose, is also requiring journalists headed
to the Athens Olympics to attend the course.
Clark Hoyt, Knight-Ridder Washington bureau chief, said it would be irresponsible
not to make sure that reporters are properly prepared and informed at a time when
U.S. government authorities are issuing warnings about potential acts of terrorism
during the presidential campaign in general and at the political conventions specifically.
"I hope nothing bad happens," Hoyt said during an interview in Knight-Ridder's
convention work space beside the Fleet Center. "But we need to take some
Centurion, based in Britain, has worked for many years with news organizations
including the British Broadcasting Company, Reuters and others to develop programs
and provide personal safety and risk- assessment training for journalists assigned
to the world's danger spots.
Hoyt said his organization, like several news operations, requires any journalists
assigned to war zones or trouble spots such as the Middle East to take the week-long
Associated Press staffers were briefed Sunday morning by Centurion on the potential
for trouble during the convention and on issues of personal safety in the event
of trouble. One AP staffer described the session as "frightening."
Several news organizations issued safety gear, including hoods for protection
in case of chemical attacks, to their staffers. But others noted that the hood,
which protects against smoke, doesnt help with bio attacks. NBC News Vice
President Bill Wheatley said his staff of more than 300 has had evacuation drills,
but havent stocked up on suits or masks. You have to train people
carefully in those, he noted.
The Democratic National Committee raised the stakes on the atmosphere surrounding
the convention hall when it issued a 19-point list of items banned from the Fleet
Center. The list includes the usual -- umbrellas, scissors, plastic replicas of
weapons and knitting needles -- and some not so usual: flashlights and unopened
envelopes and packages.