Yesterday members of the Women in Government Relations Homeland Security Committee hosted a reporter roundtable discussion at Adfero Group. Participants in the panel included veteran reporters Chris Strohm of Congress Daily, Tom Frank of USA Today and Lisa Stark of ABC News. About twenty private and public sector participants from the homeland security environment turned the table on journalists and asked the questions.

One point of discussion that arose was that while the Department of Homeland Security seems more low key and less visible than it was under the previous administration, many of the previous administration’s policies are being carried into the Obama era.

Two of these policies noted are the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight watch list matching and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which as of June 1 requires a passport for re-entry to the United States and is handled jointly between DHS and the Department of State. ¬†And while there were considerable differences among the reporters as to where immigration policy (particularly worksite enforcement) is moving, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities Initiative appears to be moving forward.

The deafening silence from TSA during the last six months was noted even though a number of contentious issues are brewing. Items being watched by homeland beat reporters include General Aviation security, the 100-percent screening mandate for air cargo (with a deadline rapidly approaching next year), and the continuing impact of Secure Flight on travelers who have those annoying watch list misidentifications at airport check-in.

Frank and Stark also spoke to the impacts of the recession on their respective companies in the media sector. Layoffs and furloughs are becoming a more regular occurrence, and existing staff continue to be asked to do more with less. In addition to contributing to the daily print edition of USA Today and the longstanding World News Tonight broadcast, reporters at both news organizations are repurposing more material for the web. Strohm’s publishing organization serves a more niche market and may have been a bit more insulated in the current economic climate. Clearly, though, the media industry is undergoing significant changes – due not only to the recession but also to the rapidly changing nature of the media landscape itself, as the blogosphere and online media force traditional media to adapt.

All the journalists were open to being pitched on any story and agreed that, with the insatiable web market, there is a constant need for fresh, original content.

As online media continue to gain momentum and market share in the journalistic mix, it was noted that Clear mastermind Steve Brill has returned to his roots in media. Brill is currently working on a new business model whereby news organizations can turn web-based news content into a revenue producer (see Journalism Online). When one attendee asked if she would ever be able to use her Clear card again, it was suggested that she join the class action lawsuit.

  • Rich Cooper

    Great post Ellen! I enjoyed this and am sorry I missed the program that you guys hosted. I hope there is another soon so as to take in what else these reporters and others have to offer. Again, nice job.