Accuracy in Media

Fresh from the controversy over its Jack Kevorkian videotape, the CBS 60 Minutes program aired an equally controversial story about the Y2K computer problem. The story was too little, too late. In this case, what was curious about the story was what didn?t air, rather than what was broadcast. Correspondent Steve Kroft brought us a lot of gloom-and-doom about what may happen if there is a worldwide computer crash, but he failed to tell the viewers what, if anything, the Clinton-Gore Administration has been doing about it.

This was an incredible oversight. We expected better from Steve Kroft and 60 Minutes. After all, Vice President Al Gore is considered our high-tech vice-president. He is a champion of the global economy and global computer networks. In May he gave a speech entitled, “It?s Technology, Stupid: Shrinking the World and Building the New Global Economy.” However, he didn?t say one word about Y2K. But Steve Kroft didn?t say one word about Al Gore and Y2K. His only reference to President Clinton was noting that he had appointed a Y2K czar in the White House. 60 Minutes flashed a number of General Accounting office reports on the screen, highlighting the serious problems that confront us. However, Kroft didn?t mention that the GAO?s chief scientist made a speech in June saying “no one is in charge” of the federal government?s year 2000 preparations. The scientist, Rona B. Stillman, declared, “Our entire way of life, in essence, is at risk.”

60 Minutes highlighted a family seeking refuge in the California desert from the anticipated Y2K problem. This, too, was old news. The family had been featured on a previous ABC News Nightline broadcast. Nevertheless, one day after the 60 Minutes broadcast, the family showed up again on a special “Eye on America” broadcast on the CBS Evening News.

CBS News is late to this story and its attitude seems to be, “Better late than never.” However, the failure to hold the Clinton-Gore Administration accountable for the inadequate federal effort cannot be excused. A casual survey of Y2K articles on the Internet reveal much criticism of the Clinton-Gore Administration, especially Vice President Gore.

The real story for 60 Minutes should have been why the Administration is dragging its feet. The answer may lie in Steve Kroft?s interview of a man who predicted that the Y2K computer crash would be the biggest litigation event in history. Companies which fail to fix the problem on time could be sued for hundred of billions of dollars. Since trial lawyers are closely allied with the Clinton-Gore Administration, could this explain why a solution is not yet in sight?

Kroft emphasized the tedious, time-consuming nature of finding a solution, because the primary government and corporate approach is to fix computer and software codes line by line. He ignored an approach called the Millennium Solution from Data Integrity of Waltham, Massachusetts. This is a software program that automatically fixes 95 percent of the problem and saves a lot of time and money. 60 Minutes could have performed a real public service by telling the truth about Y2K.

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