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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Three Years Later

Saturday
September 11, 2004

In today's coverage of the three year anniversary of the 9/11/01 Al-Qaida attack on America, it struck me as being very odd that none of the cable networks (from what I saw) showed any video of the World Trade Center being hit by planes, the collapse of the buildings, or even the wreckage of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania.

It's understandable to say that you have to move on, as time only moves in one direction. But by the same token, I personally feel that it marginalizes and minimalizes what happened three years ago today when news networks "sanitize" their coverage by not showing those horrific scenes. This, horribly, is a part of American history that will be with us forever.

The second building is hit: 9-11-01
Cable news networks shied away from showing the images of destruction from 9/11/01 in today's coverage.

When I worked at Channel 10 in Tampa, we had orders that came out not too long after 9/11/01 that forbid us from using shots of the planes hitting the building or the Trade Centers collapsing in news stories. The explanation was that it could be upsetting to viewers. This policy stayed in place the next year (9/11/02), with the exception of certain, pre-approved packages... despite the fact that CBS at that point was still using the images. We had a prohibition on it at 6:55 AM, but at 7:00 AM network had it. These sorts of things happen sometimes in TV news, where you can only control your local content.

It disgusted me that we wouldn't show those images, that we would in a sense distort our own history by making such a move. But it wasn't my call to make.

One thing I did do today was listen to the Howard Stern show that aired on 9/11/01, which is a very interesting listen if you can hunt it down (it's available online through Kazaa, Limewire, etc.) It was surprising to me to hear, in hindsight, how many errant reports were coming out amidst the chaos. It makes me appreciate the job the networks did (and in particular I mean ABC, CBS and NBC, the three I kept switching between during the ordeal) in only reporting the facts.

A common phrase heard after 9/11 was "never forget". I sure hope that, in this short attention span era, that will hold true...


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