Fifteen years after one of the most devastating acts of domestic terrorism is a time of remembrance. For two well-respected journalists, it is going back to a story that continually impacts their lives and their careers.
The sixth year of the National Media Symposium will be led by Mark Halperin, editor-at-large of Time magazine, and former CNN and NBC News correspondent Mike Boettcher. The event takes place 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum's Center for Education & Outreach, 620 N. Harvey.
"We put this on the anniversary to look at the media's role in not only telling this story, but in other (stories) of terrorism all around the world," said Kari Watkins, executive director of the memorial.
Before a time with 400 channels and when local stations would go off the air in the night, April 19, 1995, had a huge effect on the media and media consumption, Watkins said.
"The media (were) a big part of the story; (this was) really the first event that people would watch around the clock," she said. "This event changed how the media began to report, to tell the stories of victims of terrorism, and it really set a precedent on how reporters have begun to report almost on a daily basis."
Working for NBC News at the time, Boettcher said the Oklahoma City bombing was one of the most important stories he ever covered, and it happened in his hometown.
"As a person who had, years before April 19, 1995, covered terrorism around the world in foreign lands, and to see it in Oklahoma City where I had lived and worked for many years, really hit me hard," Boettcher said. "I spent the next two years after that assigned specifically to look into domestic terrorism for NBC News, and it is something that is important to me."
Because of how important the story is to Boettcher, he takes every opportunity to promote awareness on what happened that day and why it happened, he said.
Working for ABC News at the time, Halperin also saw the importance of this story from a national perspective.
"(This event) coincided with the coarsening of American politics and in both elections and homeland security, even people of good faith have trouble lowering the volume, and often meanness, of our rhetoric," he said.
Since Oklahoma City, Halperin said he felt an obligation to try to contribute to public debates to find ways to protect citizens while also maintaining their freedoms.
"As horrible as the tragedy was, I have always thought from the first day, the way people of Oklahoma handled it was an extraordinary example and model for the nation on how to deal adversity," he said. "The leadership of (then) Gov. (Frank) Keating and of Bill Clinton, men of two different parties, their leadership set an extraordinary example of the kind that I think we need more of in this country in times of tragedy and also day-to-day."
As terrorism has evolved since both 1995 and Sept. 11, 2001, so must the policy and media in terms of dealing with terrorism.
"Terrorism is something that is not going to go away. We live in the era of terrorism, and we have to understand that, and we have to understand that this is not going to be a war that ends when Iraq is finished and all troops are out of Afghanistan; this is a war that is going to carry on for many, many years," Boettcher said.
Watkins said the symposium will also deal with how the media is continually changing in terms of how citizen journalism affects traditional journalism now and what its future will be. "Leighanne Manwarren
photo Mark Halperin, editor-at-large of Time magazine