Tag Archives: 9/11

Ethics of 9/11 anniversaries

11 Sep


As we discussed in class, there is some controversy within professional journalism circles about the extent to which the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 should be commemorated/relived on the anniversary.

There is enormous pressure on media organizations to commemorate key anniversaries such as Pearl Harbor or D-Day and now 9/11. As an editor, I would take a dozen or more calls in any year when a Pearl Harbor remembrance story failed to make our Page 1 on Dec. 7 or a D-Day commemoration on June 6. Woe unto the editor who forgets a Page 1 presence on Veterans Day or memorial Day. Although I am off-line now, I suspect much the same pressure comes from readers and viewers on 9/11. Yet The New York Times and New York Post chose not to commemorate the event on their front pages today (although there was coverage inside). Is there an ethical component to the anniversary question? At what point is it ethically responsible for journalists to turn over a watershed event to historians and move on?

Meanwhile, MSNBC today once again replayed the as-it-happened recording of the Today Show as it was  broadcast live the morning of the attacks 11 years ago. The replay presents the events as they unfolded live on television and includes images of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center south tower and images of both towers as they collapsed. The Today anchors reference falling bodies although the live coverage at the time did not show falling people.

Critics argue this 1oth repeat of the 9/11 telecast is a gratuitous reliving of events that can re-traumatize people, especially children.

What are the ethical issues involved in MSNBC’s decision to replay the Today Show?

How would you defend The New York Times decision to take 9/11 off the front page? How would you defend MSNBC’s decision to rebroadcast the Today Show? How would you defend the opposite decisions?

Comment below.

Steve Smith