60 Minutes’ NYPD Anti-Terror Story Raises Interesting Comms Questions

Posted on September 29, 2011 
Filed Under General

Living in New York and commuting to downtown Manhattan to work, I’ve always been curious about the city’s behind-the-scenes anti-terrorism efforts. So the 60 Minutes story that ran on Sunday, 9/25/11 featuring NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly definitely piqued my interest—not only from a security perspective, but from a media relations view as well. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the communications meetings leading up to Scott Pelley’s interview with Kelly. How much of the anti-terrorist program should be revealed? What tone should Kelly take? I would also love to know the parameters set up for the interview between 60 Minutes and the city.

As for the interview itself, I asked crisis counselor and media training expert Andy Gilman of CommCore Consulting for his take on the finished product. Gilman was pretty impressed. “I saw this as a terrific piece for the NYPD and Commissioner Kelly,” he says. “Kelly comes across as thoughtful, organized and committed to public safety, and he had messages for a number, but not all, audiences.” The only trouble spot I saw with Kelly’s performance was when Pelley asked if  the NYPD had the capability to shoot down a plane. Kelly seemed hesitant in his answer (which was yes), and the day after the media would call him on that fact. Gilman doesn’t see it as a gaffe. “He was being candid and also trying not to reveal all the tactics that might be used to thwart a plot,” he says.

I agree with Gilman’s further assessment that CBS gave him a pass–at least on the edited version–on how the NYPD balances security and protection of civil liberties. Pelley also didn’t ask if $3 billion was too much of a price to pay for security. But then, as someone who takes the Metro North train, walks through Grand Central and hops on the subway down to Wall Street, I don’t think $3 billion is too much of a price to pay at all.

–Scott Van Camp

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