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APME Head Proposes Terrorism Conference

October 28, 1985

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association called Monday for a conference by print and broadcast journalists to study coverage of terrorist acts ″to avoid the excesses that marked the coverage of the TWA hijacking.″

″While reasonable people differ in their degree of criticism, I don’t think anyone sees coverage of the TWA hijacking as journalism’s finest hour,″ the APME president, Michael J. Davies of The Hartford Courant, said at the group’s annual convention.

In the June 14 hijacking, Shiite Moslems seized TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome. More than two weeks later, 39 American hostages were freed. One American was killed.

The extensive news coverage of the hijacking included the broadcasting by all three networks of a taped interview with the hostages conducted by one of their captors. In addition, news reports about the location of the U.S. Delta Force, an anti-terrorist group, may have made a rescue impossible, some critics have said.

Publicity about terrorist acts is the ″lifeblood of terrorism,″ Davies said.

″Yet few responsible critics would suggest that the media enter into a conspiracy of silence that would ignore all acts of international terrorism,″ said Davies, who is editor, publisher and chief executive officer of the Courant.

He said one or more conferences by journalists on this issue might produce a consensus on some voluntary restraints on coverage.

″What is left, then, is for us to find some reasonable middle ground, a field wide enough to enable us to serve society’s need for adequate information about important events and narrow enough to avoid the excesses that marked the coverage of the TWA hijacking,″ he said.

The Times Mirror Co., whose holdings include the Courant, is willing to underwrite the costs of an initial symposium, Davies sad.

Six Americans remain hostage in Lebanon, including Terry Anderson, the AP’s chief Middle East correspondent.

Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of the AP, told the convention that ″Terry’s plight is the extreme of the growing difficulty our correspondents and others face in many parts of the world.″

In other association business, Walter Mears, vice president and executive editor of the AP; William Ahearn, AP managing editor; and Donald DeMaio, AP director of graphics, discussed expansion and improvement of the AP report in graphics, regional reporting and business coverage.

DeMaio said the AP was preparing graphics packages on the Philippines, South Africa, the Middle East and Central America.

″Once again, you can’t sit back and let news happen. You have to be able to react and respond,″ DeMaio said.

During the conference, which runs through Thursday, participants will discuss various aspects of the news business, including credibility of the media and reporting such subjects as health risks.

While journalists face many challenges, this is a great time to be a journalist, Boccardi told the convention.

″Our profession has never been more alive to the challenges or better prepared to meet them. In so many important ways, we are better than we have ever been,″ Boccardi said.

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