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Published: Monday, 9/17/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Media rise to tragedy's challenges

Television took us to the scene, providing images that we will never forget.

Newspapers offered in-depth analysis in editions that some people will preserve in a storage box for future generations.

Radio gave grieving listeners the opportunity to call in and share their feelings with others.

On one of America's darkest days, when terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, each segment of the media did what it does best. Mesmerizing drama (provided by television), perspective (newspapers), and emotion (radio) -- those elements helped us to grasp the enormity of it all.

Janet Hundley, news director at WTVG-TV, Channel 13, said the station's reporters, all of whom are in their 20s and 30s, were “literally overwhelmed” by what they saw. “They've never seen anything remotely close to this,” she said. “I mean, Oklahoma City [the 1995 bombing] seems almost minute compared to this. You almost feel bad that you feel that way.”

The difference is, we never saw the Oklahoma City explosion on television. We did see, over and over again, the airliner slam into one of the World Trade Center towers. Then we saw both towers, one at a time, crumble to the ground.

“We all got teary-eyed, off and on, during the day,” Hundley said.

Here's a medium-by-medium overview of what went on during the first 60 hours after the attack:

  • Television: Often criticized for its lack of substance and its tendency to sensationalize the news, television was never better in bringing a story into our homes. Its coverage was both respectful and responsible. ABC's Peter Jennings emerged as our generation's Walter Cronkite.

    Locally, the four stations with news operations were outstanding as well. Story after story tugged at the heart. I know it sounds hokey, but seeing all of those people waiting in line to donate blood at the Red Cross made me proud to be an American. Only television is capable of evoking that kind of emotion.

  • Newspapers: Often considered the dinosaur of the media, newspapers across the country exhibited 21st-century savvy by providing extensive coverage on their Web sites. But, as always, a newspaper is defined by its print product. The Blade, which had never had an “Extra” edition in my lifetime, published not one but an unprecedented two “Extra” editions on Tuesday.

    At The Blade, the resources and space devoted to the coverage were the most in recent memory, if not ever.

  • Radio: Whether playing an inspiring song like Lee Greenwood's “God Bless The USA,” rallying citizens for a disaster-relief project, or simply providing a forum for listeners to call in and talk about the horrific events, radio is at its best during a time of crisis.

    Four Cumulus-owned stations -- WKKO-FM (99.9), WRQN-FM (93.5), WWWM-FM (105.5), and WRWK-FM (106.5) -- combined for a disaster-relief project to benefit the Red Cross. Through 6 p.m. Friday, more than $150,000 was raised, according to WKKO morning-show host Gary Shores.

    “The response has been phenomenal,” Shores said. “This tragedy is just so horrific, people want to help.”

    WKKO spearheaded a similar drive after the Oklahoma City bombing and $6,000 was raised, he said.

    The local Clear Channel-owned stations were part of a national drive, called the Clear Channel Worldwide Relief Fund.

    Russ Lemmon's column on the local media appears Mondays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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