Sunday, November 26, 2006

Security in the newsroom

Last Friday afternoon, I happened to be watching CNN when a story broke about a gunman in the Miami Herald building. The coverage went on for a couple of hours, without many developments except some observations from witnesses about the alleged gunman telling reporters that he was looking for a particular editor and that he was the paper's "new director." It turned out that the man was a freelance cartoonist for El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish-language newspaper published owned by the Miami Herald's publishers, and was angry about some management decisions at the paper. After speaking with a police negotiator, the man surrendered and was arrested. As it turned out, he didn't have a gun--he carried only a knife and a toy gun that apparently looked realistic.

As I watched the event unravel, the reporters struggled to get more information but were able to speak with some of the Herald reporters who had stayed in the newsroom to report on the standoff. And one of the Herald reporters had an interesting answer when he was asked about the building's security: he said that the security was typically not very tight, because of the importance of keeping the paper "open" to the public.

Surely, it's a tricky balance--journalists write and say things every day that are likely to anger someone, but we need to be accessible and accountable. So which should win out? Is it more important to have high security for the benefit of the newsroom staff? Or should we take our chances in the interest of visibility?

Here's the link to a story on the standoff.



At Sunday, November 26, 2006, Anonymous al said...

A similar question came up when Sept. 11 challenged our right to privacy. How far would we allow the government to go for the sake of national security? Would you give up all your privacy rights? How far can security search you at airports?

Honestly, I'm not sure what to say about the security of news organizations. If there is a way to keep it accessible to the public without the building itself being easily penetrable, then I would support that. On the other hand, we know journalism isn't the safest job around either.

At Sunday, November 26, 2006, Anonymous aj said...

In today's world, I think security has to be a major concern. Just because people have to show ID or go through checks before they can acess the newsroom does not mean that the organization isn't "open to the public." Readers/Viewers can still call and send e-mails or letters if they have a concern to express.

At Sunday, November 26, 2006, Anonymous mg said...

I think security is the most important part of any job, and a primary concern in any newsroom.

It's possible to maintain security without sacrificing accessibility. Giving the public telephone/email/webconferencing and other online forms of access to reporters and anchors is sufficient. As long as people have a way in which they can voice their opinion or form a rebuttal to an article they've read or a report they've watched, they don't need to physically go anywhere near a newsroom or station to have their voice heard - especially if there are weapons involved.


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