We have created a special page on the Y2K Survey Website that includes photographs and links to the recent Senate hearings:
The testimony of all participants can be read at:
Or watched and listened to via Real Video at:
Rogue Valley resident, Liza K. Christian, former Executive Director of the Rogue Valley Y2k Task Force was one of four presenters at a Special Senate Hearing today in Washington, D.C. Also testifying were Paloma O'Riley, Co-Founder of the Cassandra Project, Edward Yourdon, author of Time Bomb 2000, and Mike Nolan, City Administrator for Norfolk, Nebraska. The hearing was held to examine the issue of community and individual Y2k preparedness, and the related role the media plays in providing information to assist communities and individuals in their Y2k preparedness efforts. In light of her extensive involvement with this issue, Ms. Christian was invited to testify at the Washington D.C. hearing by Senator Robert Bennett, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem.
The full text of Ms. Christian's oral testimony is reprinted below.
Testimony of Liza K. Christian
former Executive Director, Rogue Valley Y2k Task Force located in Southern Oregon and serving Jackson and Josephine Counties.
Honorable Senator Bennett, and Distinguished Members of the Senate
Special Committee on the Year 2000 Problem
Thank you for inviting me to participate in today's hearing. It is with both honor and humility that I sit before this distinguished panel. I bring you greetings from the great State of Oregon, and the beautiful Rogue Valley. My statement as well as the supportive written testimony entered into the record is not exclusively mine, but reflects the voices of my colleagues.
As you know, the nature of the Year 2000 problem is complex and challenging; its remediation a formidable task.
Many view Y2k as a confusing maze of conflicting data. But the question that consistently rises to the top is straightforward: is it a problem or not?
In part, the confusion stems from what is perceived at the grass-roots level, as an orchestrated "public relations campaign" designed to tranquilize the American public.
Why we ask?
The reasoning offered is this: if you provide full disclosure, people will act irrationally and panic, and the country will suffer an economic and banking collapse.
While some "positive" statements about Y2k progress are grounded in fact, others seem like "window dressing." We submit that such mis-leading, and artificial restraint will breed an even worse panic later. But adequate preparation prevents panic.
In the Rogue Valley, where I served as the Executive Director of the nation's first grass-roots community-preparedness organization called the Rogue Valley Y2k Task Force, many intelligent, thoughtful individuals investigated this issue. We believe that the Y2k paradox is
now of titanic dimension.
In a March 1999 joint statement by Senators Bennett and Dodd, we read "Y2k is one of the most serious and potentially devastating events this nation has ever encountered. It deserves our top priority. Make no mistake, this problem will affect us all ." And from John Koskinen, Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion: "I urge [you] to treat this matter with a sense of urgency time is of the essence ."
Yet, in another set of quotes we read, "all is well; don't worry; we have it under control; business as usual."
An urgency to prepare; but don't worry, be happy? Isn't that an oxymoron? One statement cancels the other. The result is procrastination, and the population is once again lulled into a false sense of security.
Frankly Senators, as you are fully aware, many people are scared. Some
even despairing. They don't comprehend the complexities of Y2k. There's
no frame of reference, no historic precedent from which they can
comfortably or reasonably examine this issue. What they don't
understand, they tend to ignore. In spite of some progress toward
preparation, the pendulum unmistakably swings toward denial, apathy, and
As this attitude rises so does the potential for hardship.
The media, in our opinion, has done a less than adequate job of creating
Y2k awareness; let alone fully examining and reporting on the potential
impact to every area of our lives. Where is the investigative
journalism? Did they read the recent 164 page report of the U.S. Senate?
Doubtful. Instead they merely echo the "bump in the road" bias.
In our experience, the media is looking for sound bites and headlines.
Articles and interviews often ridicule those who choose to make
preparations to survive a hardship or crisis. They are labeled
"doomsayer, whacko, alarmist, nut case." At times, the media have even
appeared hostile or outright disinterested.
We would ask: how does it serve anyone's best interests for people to be
As a nation, we must form an effective way to help citizens prepare. The
risks of Y2k-related failure and the benefits of individual and
community preparedness justify a rigorous approach. We cannot afford the
luxury of skewed rhetoric.
In my short time remaining this morning, I'd like to suggest some ideas
to help mobilize such an effort:
1. We advocate for federal, state, county, and city governments to
marshal every resource at their disposal to lighten the burden of
emergency preparedness in this troublesome time of our nation's history.
2. Encourage investigative journalism on the part of the media. Look for
proof. Verify facts. Report obvious statistical manipulation. Partner
with community agencies and efforts aimed at preparedness. Build
awareness at every level. Provide resources for the American public to
thoroughly examine this issue. In our written testimony, we have
provided suggestions that can help any community springboard into
3. Encourage individuals and communities to become pro-active not
reactive. Assist the American people in developing sound contingency
plans for themselves and their communities and practice emergency drills
in their homes. Assemble the expertise of existing disaster relief
agencies; form coalitions and partnerships with, and encourage civic and
religious organizations to 1) disseminate awareness materials and 2)
develop and coordinate strategic, targeted contingency plans (serve as
shelters, identify "at risk" people in their own groups as well as the
their communities), and 3) build community. Bring support groups in on
the front-end of planning efforts so they will be effective at the
4. Join the Rogue Valley Mayors in their "Proclamation for National
Awareness & Preparedness Month" during September 1999. Help organize
events and provide resources and tools for emergency readiness that span
the nation. Call for similar action in every state, county and city, in
order to minimize the impact of any emergency, be it a personal
hardship, a natural disaster, or crisis of computer origin. It is time
to become pro-active and not reactive.
5. Support informational and educational awareness campaigns. Organize a
media campaign and blitz every print and electronic media entity.
Provide in-depth reporting; develop positive, doable strategies; build
community awareness at every level: 1) remediation, 2) mitigation, and
3) preparedness, for businesses, individuals, and communities.
6. Establish effective neighbor-to-neighbor sanctioned strategies that
engender a genuine sense of caring, and lay the groundwork for
individual and community preparedness. It is imperative that the
American public thoroughly examine this issue and think and act for
7. Advocate for a robust network of serviceable shelters for times of
emergency. It will take focused cooperation to partner in such effort.
We do not have a moment to lose.
8. Take advantage of the experts: from disaster relief and emergency
preparedness agencies to institutions that provide first aid training,
9. Form coalitions and partnerships with civic and religious
organizations and develop targeted, strategic contingency plans.
10. Enlist every government agency and business to provide full
disclosure to the American people.
11. Call upon every member of Congress to hold town hall meetings to
educate and inform their constituents. Discuss, develop, and execute
strategic contingency plans for emergency preparedness. Build
relationships instead of resentmentŠ trust instead of doubtŠ hope
instead of despair.
It takes unusual courage to act in the midst of adversity. It takes
vision and exceptional leadership to act before the crisis arrives.
This concludes my remarks. Thank you for your willingness to consider
the voice of the grass-roots organizations. It has been my privilege to
speak on their behalf.
Submitted May 20, 1999
Liza K. Christian
Director of Broadcasting, Media Studies Center
The Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem
May 25, 1999
Y2K is a unique tale playing itself out on the landscape of American
journalism as part concern and part cartoon. And as you said, Senator
Bennett, "How do we strike a balance between Paul Revere and Chicken
Little?" In recent months my organization, the Media Studies Center, has
heard from hundreds of journalists who are looking for the proper voice
in which to tell this story. In the words of a reporter from the San
Jose Mercury News, right now journalists on this beat are forced into
Many news organizations are not digging into the technical
vulnerabilities of their towns, cities, and states. In part, because of
a lack of leadership from the federal government. Not only a lack of
leadership, but also a lack of consensus within government entities
charged with gathering these facts.
The governments' own Y2K Czar, John Koskinen, advises journalists to
continually drive toward the facts . Though it seems obvious to
journalists in the know, Mr. Koskinen seems to avoid facts. Always in a
calm and low key presentation, he tells us the power industry nationally
has done well but he's concerned about local power companies. He thinks
the national telephone systems will work but he is concerned about the
1400 small telephone companies. He indicates we should not worry but we
These are not facts, but public valium, and the news media as a whole is
not picking up on it. As Jeff Gralnick of CNN told us "journalists are
drowning in a sea of conflicting information."
In the absence of consistent facts, government proclamations that are
not stories become stories. Consider these headlines; "FAA head books
flight for New Year's," "Y2K Czar Sees Serene January 1," "Don't Panic
Over Y2K, Senators Say."
Then, journalists find conflicting information in the government's own
Y2K websites. For starters, this Senate committee's web site offers a
clear link to Mr. Koskinen's Y2K. gov website but Mr Koskinen's buries
its link back to the Senate's. Why? Is there a difference of opinion
between the two?
Senator Dodd, you state: "The world oil supply faces a series of Y2K
risks from the well in the ground to the gas station in your
neighborhood." Mr. Koskinen says, " Although there may be some minor
disruptions .... the industries are confident ... that the supply of
natural gas and petroleum...products (will be) uninterrupted."
This committee cites a GAO survey that raises major concern over the
readiness of America's water utilities. On the other hand, Mr Koskinen
reports cautious optimism that water utility services will continue
uninterrupted by Y2K issues. Journalists are not getting a clear and
consistent message . Marsha Stepanek of Business Week magazine says
"this story takes commitment and manpower" and Senators, you need to
explain why news organization should give it both.
A few journalists have been assigned the Y2K beat and they get it; they
understand this issue is not black and white - it cannot be polarized.
Long ago they abandoned the plane-falling-out-of-the sky-analogies in
their reporting. These are the reporters looking every day for hard
information. Journalists want you to admit what you don't know and admit
why that worries you. Then they can explain to the public how the lack
of information might signal problems. And they can report how the
government suggests we prepare to cope with potential problems.
Unfortunately, journalists on this beat tell us they now find
information that looks suspiciously like a cover up. ABC correspondent,
James Walker, found the following instructions on an electric utilities
website regarding a Y2K drill:
"Do not make the drill too complex. We want to have a successful and
meaningful story for publication."
Then there is the rest of the news media, reporters doing stories every
day on health, finance, religion, politics, media, the arts,
entertainment, news, weather and sports. There is a potential Y2K issue
in each of these areas and more. Help journalists understand that it is
not just a technology story and help them explain that to the rest of
It is important to recognize that there are individual examples of fine
Y2K coverage every day and local news organizations taking it upon
themselves to make preparedness suggestions. News reports in Miami tell
residents to prepare as if for a hurricane, in San Francisco as if an
earthquake, in Oklahoma as if a tornado. But it remains a patchwork of
reporting that has not formed a nationwide mosaic of understanding.
Big companies are admitting in increasing numbers that they won't be
ready in time. Perhaps the government could convene a summit that brings
captains of industry together to explain to journalists how system
breakdowns in the private sector might affect the public. Through the
news media you could instantly attach honesty, leadership, public
understanding and perhaps calm, supplanting the current environment of
ignorance, confusion and in some cases, panic.
Y2K is not a hurricane earthquake or tornado: this is an expected event.
If Y2K failures are a fraction of what the government believes they
might be, in the post-millennium blame game, journalists will haunt the
people responsible for duplicity.