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Has the media been irresponsible in covering 9/11 anniversary?

September 9, 2011

There’s always a fine line between not enough and too much.

The media has the daunting task of finding the right balance on stories. It’s the media’s responsibility to give a story the appropriate coverage.

The coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 shouldn’t be an exception.

This may sound unpatriotic but too many stories, too much rehashing and too much reliving, can actually turn off an audience.

How many times do we need to watch the plane crash into the second tower? How many times do we need to see the Twin Towers crumble to the ground? How many times do we need feel the pain of losing thousands of lives? How many times is too many?

People should never forget about the tragic events but they also don’t need them shoved down their throats.

For the past week, every other channel on TV has shown a documentary or a news segment about the historic day. A Florida news station produced a 10-minute segment about its reporters’ memories of covering 9/11.  In one part of the segment, one after one they said “then I saw the second tower fall.”

Is this media indulgence? Is this an example of over-hyping an event?

This coming Sunday every newspaper in America will have a special 9/11 pullout section. There will be story after story about survivors and lost lives, coupled with a timeline and those dramatic photos.

Will the readers sit down and consume all of the content? Will they run out to the store to get a souvenir copy?

The media is infatuated with anniversaries especially those of wars and tragic events.  Every year media outlets rehash the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the D-Day invasion at Normandy beach.  It’s as if we are married to the story. We don’t dare forget an anniversary.

I once even had a reporter pitch a story idea about the 7th anniversary of a natural disaster.

“Why the 7th anniversary?” I asked.

“Because it’s that time,” he replied.

The media should only do stories if it is breaking new ground or moving the story forward. The media should seek fresh angles. The media should not compromise coverage just to appease advertising objectives or circulation numbers.

When it comes to covering 9/11, the media should steal a page from Jimmy Breslin.

The legendary columnist had the tough assignment of covering John F. Kennedy’s funeral – along with about 2,000 other journalists.

Breslin didn’t envy the assignment. He didn’t want to stand over JFK’s coffin and write the same story every other journalist was going to submit. He didn’t want to write; Jackie wore black and a nation wept. He wanted a unique angle.

Breslin didn’t disappoint. He went out to Arlington National Cemetery before any other reporter even left their hotel room. He found  two men digging JFK’s grave.  He told the story through their eyes. Breslin captured the sadness of the President’s death and the blue-collar patriotism that followed. He gave the readers a fresh perspective.

How would Breslin cover the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

He would be respectful and thoughtful. He would be insightful and professional.

He would know when enough is enough. He would know exactly how much is too much.

What do you think of the media’s coverage on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

Here are a few more stories about this issue:

USA TODAY: 9/11 anniversary News: Too much or ‘national group therapy’?

NEW YORK TIMES:  Media strive to cover 9/11 without seeming to exploit a tragedy

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. Paige Lukert permalink
    September 9, 2011 2:56 pm

    I think that the media needs to cover the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I think that as a society, as time goes on we tend to forget the seriousness of things and articles and news specials like this put things in perspective for us. Things happen and we all get over it and go on with our daily lives, and I think when we are reminded of terrible things that happen to us, and to other people we take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I think that the media needs to cover the 10th anniversary of 9/11 like it just happened. It should have picture, it should have video, it shouldn’t be sugarcoated. We all know what happened on that tragic day, and although some people might not want to relive it, I don’t want to be lied to. I don’t want the media to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, when in fact we are still dealing with the results of that day.

  2. September 9, 2011 4:29 pm

    I agree with Paige, above me, i believe the media should touch on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, mostly because it’s something to be remembered that our kids in future generations will be reading about and learning about in years to come. It’s not something to forget. Also, people are always interested in coverage of this event, and that is always the media’s top priority, to give what people want. but i do think the news on 9/11 should only be told to an extent. i believe it’s a little too much for every news station to tell the same story repeatedly in every newspaper. Each newspaper will state the same thing. Like Breslin, reporters should tell the story of 9/11 from different perspectives, something different than every other paper. Something out of the box would really give people a different perspective, but still keep interest since it’s still the topic of 9/11. Perhaps, more information of the future and construction of ground zero, and less on it’s past. Maybe from the perspective of a steel worker helping build the new freedom tower, and their thoughts and feelings on rebuilding the site. 9/11 was without a doubt a traumatic day that affected all of us. I think whether or not people think the media gives too much information, it will always be a big deal to citizens of this state and it’s news reporters.

  3. Arcadia permalink
    September 11, 2011 2:08 pm

    I agree that the media is overdoing the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Every other network is doing some special on it and all of them show and say the same thing. It’s to much repetition for me and it tunes me out. I do think that 9/11 should be remembered and that it is good for media outlets to remind us of what happened but not in this over kill fashion. I want to be told something new or different about the event. Something I didn’t know or see the first time, some new angle, like how about a story on the progress of the War on Terror that was started because of 9/11- a review of how thats gone for the past 9 or 10 years. It’s a different take on the event and one no one is covering. Or a story on how other country’s viewed the attack. It’s a new way to remember the same event, just not the same repeated way.

  4. Melissa Bognaski permalink
    September 11, 2011 2:37 pm

    I think the media coverage of 9/11 is necessary. I am currently watching MSNBC’s Anniversary 9/11 Coverage. It will be broadcasted throughout the entire day. They have been replaying their own coverage of the events from 9/11. Some people may find this repetitive and unnecessary. I believe that it is compelling and central. It takes us back to the terror and uncertainty of that day. Watching the clear sky of NYC fill ever too quickly with smoke is essential in understanding the history of that day. C-SPAN covered Ground Zero, where family and friends read off the names of 9/11 victims. Even if you didn’t know anyone whose life was cut short due to the tragedy, you could feel the gut-wrenching pain of those that did. Although, the tragedy occurred ten years ago people are still missing their loved ones and NYC, which many could argue is the center of the world, still has two holes in its heart. Not heavily covering the events of 9/11 tens years later should be frowned upon. Certainly, the number of deaths and the destruction of the twin towers and the pentagon are not breaking news, but it is unforgettable news. I was only ten years old when 9/11/01 occurred and I remember what I was doing that day. Ten years later, the media has a duty to have us recall and analyze the events. Philosopher Buber talks of us living in an I-It world where we are separated from one another. We are all distracted by technologies and materialistic belongings. We see ourselves as being disconnected from everyone else. 9/11 remembrance is a way for us to break down the barriers of the I-It and live in the I-You. Yes, recalling the events of 9/11 is depressing, but with everyone remembering and feeling a sadness, comes connectivity. The extreme coverage of 9/11 by the media is appropriate. Most of it is not like Breslin’s coverage of JFK’s funeral, since it is portraying a much different circumstance and we are living in different times, but I do think it is respectful and does a good job acknowledging the events that shook our nation.

  5. Sarah Lappen permalink
    September 11, 2011 5:06 pm

    In my opinion it would be incredibly disrespectful to those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks if we did not spend a significant amount of time remembering that day. For many of us this is the one time a year when we really think about what happened that day but those who were directly affected have to think about, and relive that tragedy on a daily basis. I see this as a day for them to share memories of their loved ones so that they “are not just names on a list” as one HLN reporter put it. Of course it is everyone’s individual right to choose when and how much of this to listen to and I do think it is crucial that we still make time to broadcast current news, but the bottom line is, a ten year anniversary of a major historical event and national tragedy warrants large amounts of media coverage and remembrance. Covering this story through fresh angles may be the most effective way to grab the publics attention but whether it be done traditionally or from a more original stand point, doesn’t matter as long as it is covered fully.

  6. Adrienne David permalink
    September 12, 2011 12:01 pm

    I feel like that media did a really good job cover the anniversary of 9/11. I feel that the news staions that showed the raw footage did the right thing because what happened in 2001 is a historical event that people need to know. I think that all the news stations should have shown the raw footage and if people didn’t want to watch it, they can turn their t.v off. It is part of history and the way I see it is, in a couple of years, when a history teacher starts talking about September 11th, there are going to be young children that don’t know what their talking about. And I believe tha 9/11 helped shape the country that the USA is today and people need to know why. It is important that people know what happened and in general news stations did a good job covering it. The American people need to know the truth and they rely on the news to cover situations as long as the viewers have the truth.

  7. Aleksandr Skop permalink
    September 12, 2011 5:33 pm

    Despite the fact that this tragedy definatley deserves comprehensive coverage, I do believe that most media chanels went into overkill with excessive coverage. Being the tenth anniversary from that terrible tragedy, I believe it is necessary to show first-hand what happened on that day, with minimum commentary (the History Channel did a great job on it). However, many main-stream, 24/7 news channels started petty one-up-manship on who can squeeze out a better story, and almost exploited this terrible day. Also, I have to agree with Arcadia. Now would be a great time to not only focus on the tragedy that occurred on 9/11, but also the new era that the tragedy has led the U.S. and the modern world into.The Patriot Act, the largely unjustified invasion of Iraq, loss of civil rights and the geopolitical turmoil that the War on Terror has unveiled deserves more then brief mention. So in my opinion we definitely need to pay our dues and pay our respects to the victims of the tragedy, but I also believe we must shed light (and hopefully serve justice) to all those who manipulated and used this dark time for political and economic gain.

  8. September 12, 2011 5:57 pm

    9/11 is way over done. Everyone makes a huge deal out of it and it’s vastly over killed. Maybe if the news stations would advertise running a week before that they’re going to do a special on it and then do an hour special it would be alright. But otherwise it’s made out to be more than it needs to be, in my opinion.

  9. Brittany permalink
    September 12, 2011 6:05 pm

    I agree with Arcadia, the news is showing the same stuff they showed a year after the tragedy when they should be releasing something different. Being that its the 10th anniversary, everyone is wondering what new and exciting event is going to be shown or what other news are they going to release, not want to watch the same thing on every channel and something that has been showed for 10 years now. I believe the news was being conservative with the information they released on September 11,2011. There was one thing that I actually was glad they showed, the new memorial that is on the same lot as where the twin towers once stood. I did not know that they were making a lake with waterfalls and a huge memorial wall where the the names of the 3,000 people that lost their lives that day now stand. But as far as media coverage, it was way to conservative for me and I was hoping for something special being it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

  10. Natalie permalink
    September 12, 2011 6:09 pm

    I also agree, I think that the media needs to cover the 10th anniversary of 9/11.Things happen and we all get over it and go on with our daily lives, and I think when should be reminded of terrible things that happened to review all the facts and just to give the people who lost there life that day respect. I think that the media needs to cover the 10th anniversary of 9/11 like it just happened and show the coverage that we saw on that day. It should have picture, it should have video, it shouldn’t be edited and filtered. We all know what happened on that tragic day, and although some people might not want to relive it, I don’t want to try and pretend it had never happened. I don’t want the media to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, when in fact we are still dealing with the results of that day. Every week they build a new floor to where once was the world trade center. We should recognize that updates to the progress of trying to rebuild this monument but still have the memory in our hearts. People such as firefighters and police are finally talking after 10 years, they should show this to the people. We have the right to see the inside story.

  11. laureen esposito permalink
    September 12, 2011 6:42 pm

    September eleven is a tougher thing for me to deal with then most people. I say this because millions upon thousands died on that very day one of which was my moms’ good friend and my uncle. Both of which worked inside the north towers as finance executives. I do not believe the towers should be shown falling or even the planes crashing into them. I believe that it’s trash to show. Think of the people who lost loved ones your showing their death over and over again. I do believe names should be read and memorials held but showing things like the towers falling who needs to relive this over and over again. The media gives much hype to this because it affected many across the nation. I don’t believe the media gives it too much for those that lost someone they would say the same.

  12. Taylor Dawson permalink
    September 12, 2011 7:01 pm

    I believe that it is important for the media to cover the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Not only is it the one day a year that those people not directly affected by the tragedy can reflect and grieve but it will inform those in the younger generations of this important historical event within our nation. 9/11 is certainly not something that should be easily forgotten but it should not be so HEAVILY reported on EVERY anniversary. Yes, it was tragic event but you should be able to find a news station at 6 o’clock that isn’t doing an hour worth of coverage on the event and cancelling out new news that needs to be brought forth. Breslin seems as if he had the right idea with the way he covered JFK’s funeral. If the news did that for 9/11, the coverage wouldn’t be so repetitious.

  13. Sarah Lappen permalink
    September 12, 2011 7:08 pm

    In my opinion it would be incredibly disrespectful to those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks if we did not spend a significant amount of time remembering that day. For many of us this is the one time a year when we really think about what happened that day but those who were directly affected have to think about, and relive that tragedy on a daily basis. I see this as a day for them to share memories of their loved ones so that they “are not just names on a list” as one HLN reporter put it. Of course it is everyone’s individual right to choose when and how much of this to listen to and I do think it is crucial that we still make time to broadcast current news, but the bottom line is, a ten year anniversary of a major historical event and national tragedy warrants large amounts of media coverage and remembrance. Covering this story through fresh angles may be the most effective way to grab the publics attention but whether it be done traditionally or from a more original stand point, doesn’t matter as long as it is covered fully.

  14. Samantha Gorson permalink
    September 14, 2011 12:15 am

    I believe that the media does cover this same story way to much, its very overbearing. It is to the point when I begin to think I’m reading something new and find out that it is just the same exact story that has been done a million times, I just throw out the whole paper. I am over it. Yes, it was an incredibly terrible event that occured in our history but it happened ten years ago, it’s HISTORY now, just history. If someone is going to do something outrageous in honor of 9/11, I would love to hear it. What kinds of things happened in memory of the fallen soldiers? I don’t want to read a story about what happened ten years ago, thank you though.

  15. Mary Wall permalink
    September 14, 2011 7:13 pm

    9/11 was quite likely the worst tragedy on American soil that our generation will ever experience. But the truth of the matter is, there is only so much that can be said about it. I myself had a very similar thought while reading Sunday’s paper; I could not even find what was going on in the news because of the 20-something pages in remembrance of 9/11. While I understand this is the 10th anniversary and should hold a place in the hearts of all Americans, there was nothing about any of these articles that expressed a viewpoint or told a story we had not already heard in the news ten years ago. I was completely turned off from the newspaper and news stations that day, so I do believe that the extremely in-depth anniversary coverage may have lost them some business. On December 7th, will there be a pull-out section in every newspaper about the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing? What about the deaths occurring right now of our troops over seas? These stories are hidden in the back sections of many newspapers. Much of the news I find most interesting and stirring is hidden in side columns or tiny articles that are extremely low-profile. What I think would have been more appropriate would be to have a main story about the lasting effects of September 11,2001, but also include coverage of what is going on in the war we are still fighting in Iraq. The lives lost on 9/11, a decade ago, are given more memorial than the lives still being lost to ensure that it does not happen again.

  16. Brianna McGovern permalink
    September 14, 2011 10:15 pm

    I honestly don’t think that the news should have covered the 9/11 incident. Yes it was a big thing, and yes many people want to hear it…but for many others it is a very sensitive subject. I know that it is easy for them just to turn the tv off and ignore it but it’s not that easy..some people don’t want to remember that tragic event. Why is it only for 9/11? There were other tragic events that have happened in the past and you don’t see them all getting a day of remembrance.
    I have lost a family member in the past myself, and in my opinion I would not want the media to project what happened to the world over and over again. I actually would dread having to watch a video of that day. Some things are just better left secluded or unsaid altogether.

  17. Megan Turetsky permalink
    September 15, 2011 12:53 am

    I believe that the news accurately covered 9/11, and should have portrayed it just as they did. September 11th is a day that will live in world history. 9/11 should be reported on for the entire day, because even though there are other events where more people died, this event was an attack on our country; no one should forget that.

  18. Natashia Kinsey permalink
    September 15, 2011 8:57 pm

    I do not think the news coverage of 9/11 was to much. I believe that 9/11 is such an important time in US history and it needed to be recognized on the ten year anniversary. So many peoples lives were effected in this tragedy and I think it would be disrespectful to all of the people who died and their loved ones if it was not recognized the way that it was. We are still fighting the war on terrorism and every one needs to remember that.

  19. Jamie Feyto permalink
    September 16, 2011 11:34 am

    I believe that the media covered 9/11 enough. It is still a relevant subject today and sometimes people forget that there are still terrorist over seas that would cause another disaster like this in a second if they had a chance. It’s good to be reminded about why we are over seas and it gives everyone more motivation once a year to get rid of our enemies.

  20. Sarah Brow permalink
    September 16, 2011 12:12 pm

    Every year September 11th brings on a flood of media and news coverage. Like the previous years have shown, this year’s coverage was constant and full of reminiscing stories. Besides just news, channels such as CNN, ABC, and FOX also offered one hour specials that highlighted specific aspects on the tragic day. In my opinion, I thought that CNN did a great job covering this year’s memorial. The link to their website covering the footage is: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2011/september11/index.html. One story I enjoyed this year was the video on ABC called “9/11 Children.” ABC’s video highlighted many of the children who lost their fathers and never got a chance to get to know them growing up. Diane Sawyer interviewed the children five years ago, when they were just toddlers. Today the children are older, and they are starting to realize and come to terms with what happened on 9/11. The children now understand how 9/11 touched their lives forever. ABC and Diane Sawyer did a great job with this video because unlike reciting the history or event of what happened on 9/11 like many other stations, ABC’s video touched the hearts of their viewers by highlighting children who lost their fathers. The link to ABC’s coverage can be found at: http://abcnews.go.com/US/popup?id=2396057. One negative with the coverage on 9/11 was that the media floods us with stories and news for only one week, and then after the week and memorial is over, we hear nothing more until the next year’s anniversary. I think 9/11 stories should be in the news more frequently, not just on the one week leading up to it. Altogether, all the news stations covered 9/11 well this year; we will have to see what next year brings.

  21. Heather Comitz permalink
    September 26, 2011 2:47 pm

    The attack on 9/11 will always be regarded as history. For the unfortunate relatives and friends of the victims it will be viewed as an horrific event. The terrorist attack onto our country will be included in text books and will give our new generations the ability to become informed of such an event of the recent past.

    The language of the clip at the time of attack depicted a sense of shocking horror as it did for the rest of us and for the reason, should not be emitted. My opinion of the actual planes flying into the Twin Towers is correlative with the clip of the language at the time of the attack. This was a grim, dark day for the entire world. Literal human beings dying should never be shown in the media. However, it is history. The event was the act of the terrorists flying into the buildings.

  22. Chelsea permalink
    December 13, 2011 12:18 am

    I think that it should be covered but the footage does not need to show the images of people dying. Granted we want to represent the event accurately it does not need to be shown on national television. You can gain that information as easy as Googling it. The news is responsible for portraying the event in a respectful way that allows Americans to reflect on the event. This is not to say we want to get everyone crying and have a conception but to just let people reflect on being an American and a piece of history they were a part of.

    • Chelsea OKeefe permalink
      December 13, 2011 12:19 am

      Chelsea O’Keefe

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