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Newspro Guest Perspective: RTNDA remains in your corner

Nov 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Just as the days since Sept. 11 have been a busy and challenging period for newsrooms all across the country, this has been a hectic time for the Radio-Television News Directors Association. We have been fighting hard on behalf of electronic journalists. At the same time, we have been managing our affairs in the wake of the cancellation of the 2001 RTNDA International Conference & Exhibition in Nashville.
We can all be proud of the performance of the news media since Sept. 11. Even the harshest critics have praised the work.
But tougher times are coming. In an atmosphere of fervent patriotism mixed with high anxiety, those who question authority and push for answers may not be very popular. The role of journalism may seem to be at odds with the national purpose. Journalists will need to act responsibly but resolutely to fulfill their ultimate obligation to the public-and the public may not appreciate it immediately.
RTNDA, as the only organization that exclusively represents news executives working in television, radio and new media, is keeping up the pressure on behalf of the industry.
* We have urged the Pentagon to grant as much access as possible for independent coverage of U.S. military operations.
* We have fought hard to lift restrictions that are keeping news helicopters grounded in the 30 largest cities at a time when the public craves news about community safety.
* We have protested a plan by the government to keep high-resolution images of Afghanistan away from the public by purchasing all output from the sole U.S. commercial satellite that can provide such images.
We are also providing resources that journalists can use to do their best work.
* On our Web site, www.rtnda .org, we have created a list of links to sites useful in reporting on the aftermath of Sept. 11; a site for journalists to share their personal stories about the coverage; and guidelines on how to handle some of the difficult news situations that arise, such as when and what to report about threats.
* With Electronic Media, we produced a video that includes stories about Sept. 11 as well as stories prepared for RTNDA 2001, available on the Internet through the Feedroom (www.feedroom.com).
* RTNDA produced a teleconference, “Terrorism Coverage: Is Your Newsroom Ready?” that was transmitted on Nov. 2 to newsrooms by satellite and is also available through the Feedroom.
* The October, November and December issues of Communicator, RTNDA’s monthly magazine, all include lots of material about how newsrooms are handling Sept. 11 and the aftermath.
From this list, it’s clear that RTNDA is more active than ever on behalf of members in spite of the financial burdens created by the cancellation of the 2001 convention. We will not cut back on member services even as we await the outcome of our insurance claim. That claim for damages resulting from the cancellation is being processed, and we hope for a response soon.
Because the cancellation occurred on the eve of the convention, most of the expenses associated with holding the convention had been incurred. We do not have the funds to make refunds until the insurance claim is processed, but we intend to make refunds once that happens. Meanwhile, we owe deep thanks to the many registrants and exhibitors who are showing much patience in awaiting the outcome. We are particularly grateful to those who are allowing their registration fees to be used to sponsor the RTNDA First Amendment Defense Fund.
That fund will become an important resource for RTNDA to use in fighting on behalf of its members. As we have seen in the first weeks of this new war on terror, journalists will be under pressure as never before. RTNDA will be there to lead the charge or lend a hand.
Barbara Cochran is president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (www.RTNDA.com).