Question: The media is oversaturating the American public once again with coverage of the terrorist attacks and it's becoming very depressing. We do want to know if anything new arises, but the constant coverage, the crawl, the oversensationalism (and that's for money, not patriotism) is a continuous depressant and we'd like to know when the normal broadcasting will resume.
Televisionary: Well, as you read this, the networks' usual programming is back and running steady, but I'd like to address your comments just the same because I'm writing it only a few days after the initial plane crashes and am feeling pretty strongly about a number of things.
First off, in a situation this extraordinary, this devastating, the job of any news division is to get the details out there as quickly, responsibly and accurately as possible. Now, the world changed on September 11. The ramifications of the atrocities committed, beyond the unspeakable pain and suffering brought about by the killings themselves, must be examined and explained to the public. The coverage keeps people updated on the events, lets them know they're not alone in their mourning and gives them a greater sense of community when memorial services and vigils are televised. So on the face of it, it's not always television's job to make us feel good. The events are far more than merely depressing; they're life-altering. To suggest that the networks should somehow know when you've had enough and would rather catch the premiere of Reba is to minimize the weight of what's happened.
That said, I agree completely when it comes to the sometimes appalling lack of judgment shown by news organizations when it comes to this type of news. Much of the network coverage was commendable in terms of the agreement to share footage and inform the public as speedily as possible about what was happening. Likewise, I saw a great deal of sensitive portrayals of the tragedy and loss. However, I also witnessed the complete opposite.
One of the more outrageous things I saw in the coverage was that the networks have gone beyond using death footage as B-roll and are working it into logos and graphics.
I simply cannot believe the people at NBC think it's okay to show "Attack on America" in the font of their choice, accompanied by dramatic music and footage in the background of one of the jets hitting the tower or the tower collapsing. One woman interviewed said she was on the phone with her fiancé when she heard a noise in the background and the connection was cut. She turned to look at the TV and realized it was the tower collapsing with him in it.
You can't show the death of that man and everyone else in the building as if it's a sports highlight.
On Today one morning, Matt Lauer interviewed Sean Hughes, whose wife Melissa called him from the Trade Center and left a message on their answering machine before the building collapsed. They actually played the tape with him in the studio and opened on a tight shot of him as the tape made him burst into tears. Then sensitive Matt proceeded with the questioning. It was a set-up, pure and simple, and they actually cued this poor, shattered husband's grief for maximum effect.
There's a difference between disseminating information, communicating the human scale of a tragedy and out-and-out exploitation.It's ghoulish. I'd like to think they wouldn't use, for example, real footage of someone being shot in the head as part of a network logo, so why is it okay to use the crash or the collapse? Because we don't actually see anyone die? That's a plane full of real people smashing into a building full of real people, not some unfortunate athlete wiping out at the bottom of a ski jump.