- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

Participants at a recent seminar on the First Amendment considered one big change in international news reporting after the September 11 attacks: American reporters have become a lot more patriotic.
"In a post-9/11 world, it is clear that journalists are expected to be patriots as well as professionals," Byron T. Scott, a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, said at a symposium on "Journalism and Terrorism," co-sponsored in Arlington last month by the First Amendment Center and the school. "But what is a 'patriotic journalist'?" he asked.
Since September 11, news organizations in the United States have increased international coverage, although the coverage focuses on the U.S.-led war on terrorism, participants at the seminar said.
"Nation building or rebuilding complicates the task history, culture and traditions even more so," said Mr. Scott, who recently completed a study on news organizations in the United States, Albania and South Africa. In all three nations, reporters are challenged to balance patriotism with the responsibility of finding, analyzing and disseminating facts, he said.
Mr. Scott said he is concerned that September 11 tends to overshadow other events. "We are not the only nation affected by 9/11, nor are we the only ones involved in a national healing process," he said. "Wounds remain open in Albania and South Africa, for example, with similar pressures for its journalists to be patriotic."
A civil war in Macedonia, which borders Albania, involved ethnic Albanians in the region and the Slavic Macedonians, who until the 1992 independence were Yugoslavs, he said. Much of the world news focused on it in early September 2001. Hotels in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, were full of international journalists.
"On September 12, there were plenty of vacancies," he said.
On Sept. 18 one newspaper cited unidentified intelligence sources as saying that Muslim terrorists might have used Albania, a Muslim nation, as a springboard for the attacks, he said.
In Albania, denials were a firestorm that threatened to suppress any attempts to find the truth, he said. Any stories about the possibility of Albanian terrorists or even ones hinting at "terrorist sympathies" were condemned as "anti-Albanian" and unpatriotic, he said.
In South Africa, the perspective was far different, he said. In the course of nation building after the collapse of apartheid, even Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist who later became the first black president of the nation, pressed patriotism on the news media, Mr. Scott said. Mr. Mandela suggested that too much reporting on crime, corruption and conspiracy foreign and domestic was unpatriotic and urged a more positive approach to Africa's problems.
In times of national stress, pressure becomes substantial, especially when an administration asks: "Are you for us or against us?" Mr. Scott said. "Being patriots more than professionals means giving up part of our independence and news judgment."


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