Ridge Addresses Media ‘Confusion’ in Terrorism Fight

Aug 11, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told journalists gathered in Chicago Wednesday that “coordination, partnership and mutual respect” among government, media and public information sectors are essential when reporting on “threat intelligence” or critical information during and after attacks.

Then he seemed to suggest that only the media suffered “confusion” after the government announcement last week that Al Qaeda had been and might still be casing financial institutions for possible attack, according to the text for his keynote speech at the first of 10 workshops titled “News and Terrorism: Communicating in a Crisis.”

“You’ve heard me talk over the past week about recent threat reporting-some of the most detailed and specific intelligence we have ever received,” Mr. Ridge said in a text supplied by his agency. “I think we all recognize that talking about threat information is new for the government and it’s new for the media and it’s difficult.

“Our recent public announcement was based upon some of the most specific information we have seen, and yet there were questions. I’m of mind that there was no confusion among the governors, mayors and CEOs. No confusion among those who understand how Al Qaeda operates.”

While a number of politicians and journalists questioned whether that announcement — which ended with Mr. Ridge praising the leadership of President Bush — was more political than real, Mr. Ridge said, “When we do have threat information to announce, it serves as a sober and serious reminder that we must operate with the understanding that the threat of a terrorist attack is real.”

The Chicago workshop and the nine others scheduled are produced by the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation in association with the National Academies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Each session will feature a scenario exercise, tailored for each location, in which journalists, government officials and experts role-play in reaction to a simulated terrorist incident. The day-long program also will include scientific information, advice on protective measures and disaster planning guidance.

The next session is scheduled for Sept. 21 in Kansas City, Mo. More information on the workshops is available at www.rtnda.org.