Journalists Working like It's 1999

By Pompilio, Natalie | American Journalism Review, October 1999 | Go to article overview
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Journalists Working like It's 1999

Pompilio, Natalie, American Journalism Review

In July, CNN's "Travel Now" featured some of the hottest--and coolest--ways to ring in 2000. Among the options: scuba diving in Fiji, one of the first places to greet the new year, dog sledding in Antarctica, and cruising on a ship straddling the International Dateline.

And where will the fine journalists who compiled CNN's report be spending their momentous New Year's Eve?

Working, of course.

"We're a global network, and we'll be all over the world," says Earl Casey, a CNN spokesman, of his network's holiday plans. "Normally, our coverage at this time of year is modest to moderate. This year it's going to be intense and robust."

While people worldwide make their wild and sometimes wacky New Year's Eve plans, many journalists are preparing to welcome 2000 behind a computer or in front of a camera, watching other people celebrate or witnessing the world as it falls apart. It doesn't matter if the journalists on the job personally believe the new millennium begins this year or with the dawning of 2001. The possibility for Y2K problems and the superstition that those big, round zeros in 2000 foretell doom guarantee massive coverage of the celebration.

CNN plans 100 hours of all-encompassing coverage, starting at 5 a.m. New Year's Eve Eastern time and continuing until the New York stock market opens four days later, Casey says. The network plans to touch on all aspects of the changeover: the societal phenomena, the religious and cultural aspects, and, of course, the potential for meltdown if there's a computer catastrophe.

"Our staffing levels will approach any major news stow you can name during the calendar year and the upcoming year," Casey says.

For those interested in preserving a bit of history, CNN also plans to run a 10-part series titled, appropriately, "Millennium." Beginning in October, hourly installments will present a view of history from the year 1000 to today. CNN officials imagine videotapes of the series joining preserved newspapers and magazines in millennium keepsake boxes.

At the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Managing Editor David Bailey says the Little Rock-based daily will extend its deadlines past midnight and warn readers to expect late delivery on January 1. The paper is also preparing contingency plans in case its presses lose power, Bailey adds.

Thus far, he says, there haven't been any signs of revolt from members of the news staff who will be working on the holiday.

"We're all news junkies. As much as they'd like to party like it's 1999, they don't want to miss a good story, either," says Bailey, who stresses that the millennium starts in 2001 by his count.

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