Bomb Threats: To Cover Or Not To Cover

By: Stephanie Shoop/News Director
By: Stephanie Shoop/News Director

Bomb threats are difficult to handle for law enforcement, the victims and yes, even the media.

One of the biggest problems with reporting bomb threats is the copycat syndrome. If one person can close down a school or a business with a phone call or threatening e-mail, others feel they can too. There have been times when schools across the nation were forced to closed down because of the copycat syndrome.

If there is an actual bomb discovered, a threat to public safety, information needs to be disseminated to the public or an arrest is made, WITN's policy is to cover bomb threats. But we do not cover these threats simply to cover them. If law enforcement clearly has a handle on the situation and the public has been removed from any potential danger, we believe it causes greater harm than good to report bomb threats.

We evaluate each individual situation. We discuss a wide range of issues when determining our coverage. We weigh the significance, the scope of the threat and the potential consequences from coverage. We take special care in our physical approach to the scene of a bomb threat or a standoff so our crews do not inflame the situation.

WITN did not cover the bomb threat at WalMart in Morehead City Friday afternoon. The store was evacuated after a call to 911. No device was found. Just after 6 p.m. Friday, we were asked by the Carteret County Sheriff's Office to air the 911 call in hopes the public might recognize the caller. This falls squarely under our "information needs to be disseminated to the public" reason for coverage, so we made the decision to air the 911 call.

Each member of the WITN news team takes our responsibility to our viewers very seriously. We work every day to make the right decisions about news coverage to better serve you.

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