D-C Press Party is No Party at all

Members of the media will celebrate New Year's Eve working in cramped quarters

If you think being a journalist is a job filled with meeting celebrities and living in the lap of luxury this story will prove you wrong.

While millions of Americans toast New Year's Eve with champagne and friends, hundreds of journalists will be shoulder to shoulder in a cramped room ringing in the New Year at their keyboard. The federal Y2K bug "information coordination center" is just a small room, which is going to be packed with a large number of reporters this December 31.

The journalists got a tour of their New Year’s Eve home and found it wasn’t much more than a small vacant office space. The office is two blocks from the Wh ite House and will be filled high-tech equipment, which will track power outages and massive computer failures in the country.

The small office space is currently being transformed into a $40 million temporary News Capital of the World. Miles of wires and mountains of phone lines, lights, cameras and other equipment is being brought into the office to turn it into the high-tech headquarters of Y2K. Once everything is hooked up it will be a 24-hour a day facility for journalists. The first full day of operation will be December 28.

In the first few days of the operation federal officials and industry leaders will hold nearly continuous press conferences about global and national events related to Y2K computer failures. The threat of worldwide computer problems has journalists battling for space in the center. Once inside reporters will have immediate access to officials when they need to talk about Y2K and any problems associated with it.

Instead of trying to reach federal officials scattered throughout a traffic-clogged city celebrating the millennium, reporters will be able to do their one-stop news shopping right at the office. The podium will be packed as representatives of the Department of Transportation, State, Defense and other agencies provide updates.

When and if there are any Y2K problems officials will head to the small office to make statements. The room is only large enough for 60 chairs, and that is if they are as close as possible to each other. In other words, it’s going to be cramped and crowded inside.

With reporters wedged wall to wall there must be some sort of New Year’s Eve celebration to relax the group right? Wrong. There will be no champagne, no food, unless the reporter brings in their own sack lunch. There will be plenty of coffee, but not very many restrooms, which could be a real problem for reporters.

It makes you wonder what if the power goes out at the press office? Who will be able to report that news story?

Source: Cox News Service

DATE: 11/16/99

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