The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Thursday, April 22, 1999


TV reporter: We try to be sensitive

By Jennifer Hall
Herald Staff Writer

Technology allows television viewers to watch events such as the Persian Gulf War unfold before their eyes.

That same technology allowed Americans to watch in horror Tuesday as police attempted to gain control of a Colorado high school under attack by students with guns and homemade bombs.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who brought the images from Iraq into U.S. homes, said emerging technology means the media must be more sensitive to its coverage while giving an accurate portrayal of events.

He spoke Wednesday at Pennsylvania State University's Shenango Campus in Sharon as part of the Edward W. Greenberger Lectureship series.

The media should be as fair and honest as possible, yet be sensitive to the enormity of the story and not make situations worse or put lives at risk, said the network's senior White House correspondent.

Sensitivity came into play with CNN's coverage Tuesday, he said. The network knew that all the classrooms at Columbine High School were equipped with TVs and therefore censored some of its coverage in case the gunmen were watching, he said.

"We did not want to report that a SWAT team was just about to enter the building or show from the helicopters that 30 guys dressed in black were about to come in a particular door," he said.

Blitzer, who was in Washington Tuesday and covered President Clinton's news conference on the shooting, said CNN also was reluctant to name victims or others involved because their families had not been notified.

"We didn't want to do anything that would make a shocking situation more so -- and certainly endanger someone's life. It's better to be second, third or fourth on a story than to do that."

The negative side to up-to-the minute and intense coverage is the danger of copycats, he said.

"There's a lot of sick individuals out there that we have to worry about," Blitzer said.

Blitzer kept the packed auditorium at the Sharon campus mesmerized with stories of covering the White House, President Clinton's impeachment and dealing with top officials in the CIA and Pentagon. He focused many of his comments on a behind-the-scenes look at national and international events and answered questions from the audience.

Of the Clinton sex scandal and the president's impeachment, Blitzer said:

"Most reporters were tired of talking about it. But we had a job to do.

"And because of that, we neglected the story in Kosovo for almost a year, so that situation seemed to explode out of no where."

"You wonder if the United States had paid more attention to Kosovo, if things would've developed with such velocity and anger."

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Updated April 22, 1999
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