WIBW to improve security after attack

Following last week’s break-in at Topeka’s WIBW-TV, in which a deranged man stabbed two staffers, the station is changing up some of its security measures.

News Director Jon Janes told Poynter that the station would eliminate furniture in the entrance atrium and install shatter-proof glass. The station already had a series of codes it would broadcast over a loudspeaker in case anything happened.

At a time when news organizations are trying to become closer to their audiences, security measures should be top of mind, said Kevin Benz, chairman of RTNDA:

“With social media, we have invited the public to have personal relationships with our folks. We cultivate a closeness, an expectation that ‘you are my friend and you can help me if I go over and talk to you.’ ” Benz says news organizations can build fortresses to stay safe, but it would seal them from the public they serve. These days, he says, journalists have to be accessible, “and there is an inherent risk in that.”

Reporters, editors and members of the public participate in an “open” daily story meeting at The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe Dec. 13. (via newsroomcafe.wordpress.com)

While most news organizations have some sort of security measures in place, others have broken down barriers between the public and journalists. The Journal Register in Torrington, Conn., has been praised for its Newsroom Cafe, a coffee shop that is essentially part of the newsroom.

“There are no walls between the ‘cafe’ and the newsroom, and readers are invited to find the reporter that writes about their community or area of interest – or editors – and talk about concerns, ideas, questions,” says a Journal Register blog post about the cafe. The paper also invites the public to its daily planning meetings.

Matt DeRienzo, Connecticut Group Editor for the Journal Register company, says there’s been no change to how they view security:

“We have been open for a year and a half now, and have had no issues with security,” he said. “There have been a handful of instances in which we had to ask someone to leave because they were viewing pornography in our café in view of other guests, but that’s really it. And that’s the same kind of issue that a library or Starbucks must deal with.”

And if something happened?

“God forbid if it were to ever happen here, we would do the same thing that we would have done in our old building: call the police.”

It’s more important than ever to have close ties to the community. In Lawrence, our second-annual Only in Lawrence awards celebration brought in to our newsroom more than 100 community members; we have regular open meetings with the public. And we hope our safeguards are enough.

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