Is it safe to turn the TV back on? Is the 9/11 coverage really over? It's been just about a month since every broadcast and cable station went wall-to-wall on the anniversary of September 11. I swear, when I tuned into the Cartoon Network, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were reading the names of the victims.
Don't get me wrong; from what I have read and heard everyone did a great job covering the story. I cannot say for sure though, because I turned the TV off on September 10 and did not turn it on again for another week. Well, that's not entirely true; I did pick my lotto numbers on the 11th, here in New York, and tuned in for the drawing. Guess what the winning numbers were? 9-1-1. Yep, even the little white lottery balls could not go without making some reference to that fateful day.
It was a Catch-22 for the networks. They had to cover the anniversary, but speaking as someone who lives in the state of New York, we didn't need to remember that day. We haven't forgotten it and I don't think we will for a long time. I talked to a couple that lost their son; he was on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center. I asked them what they thought of the coverage. They said it was too soon to watch; they stayed away from the TV all day.
One survivor of the attacks was charging news stations $911 for a 2-hour interview. I never heard if he got any takers. I do know one group of people that got rich off of the coverage. The folks that own satellites made a killing. So many stations were going live from New York City, Washington, DC, and Shankesville, PA, that there wasn't enough sat space. I heard of stations on the East Coast going live to their reporters at 6:20 for the 6 p.m. news. That was the best time they could get. On my website, I criticized some stations for sending a crew to New York or any of the other places attacked. I saw a tape of a newscast from a station in Hawaii. Even it sent a crew. I just find it hard to believe that any local station is going to compete with the networks on this one. The nets were covering every angle, what more could the local station add?
More than a few news directors emailed me saying that they had all kinds of local angles. A victim that died was from their area, or something else. I am still not sure I buy that, but in a way I can understand. So I have backed off a tad regarding my stance about sending crews.
However, there is one thing I stand firm on: The stations that ran promos when they got back from New York should be sent to Tora Bora to live in a cave with Osama bin Laden. How can you in good conscience run a P.O.P. saying, "News Channel X was in New York to bring you all the anniversary coverage"?
Since it looks like it is now safe to turn the TV back on, I think I will. It's time we get back to the real news at hand. Should women be allowed in as members of the Augusta National Golf Club? Now that is a story that I think every station should send a crew to cover. After all, I think every market has some women golfers in their area.
Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top 20 news director. He runs www.ftvlive.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.