9/11 Newseum reflection: Why it’s important to report a hundred feet from a collapsing building

I was only in 2nd grade when the incidents of September 11 took place and changed this country dramatically for the future. In light of that, I never really felt the immediate impact the experience had on so many others who were older than me. However, when I have been able to go to museums, see photos and video, listen to the news as well as talk to my parents, I get a better idea of what the day really meant.

Our recent trip to the Newseum, while I haven’t yet been able to see all of it as of yet, has been a wonderful opportunity to see examples of journalists working during 9/11 and what it was like. I have to say, as someone who wants to be a journalist, watching and reading those personal accounts was inspiring. There was even a quote next to the wall that portrayed emergency personnel and journalists as the only ones who will run toward a crisis that should serve as a nice backdrop for the rest of this post.

First off, let me throw out an additional point into the mix. Being that I hope to pursue a career in journalism, I often try to ask myself why I should do it in order to make sure I’m doing it for good reasons. The 9/11 exhibit at the Newseum gave me examples of journalists that were doing their job so important stories could be told and the news could be portrayed in ways the American people needed to see. There were examples of news crews who would report a couple hundred feet from the twin towers right after the planes hit, and then continue to report and shoot as the towers were collapsing. In that event, they were often running for their lives and continuing to roll cameras as the debris cloud was closing in behind them. There was even an instance where a journalist and his crew were told they would be arrested if they returned to the area on account of a regard for their safety, but the journalist considered it and found another way into the site anyway to capture the story.

Some have this perception of journalists being willing to do anything for a story as a bad thing. The idea is that they are nosy, peevish and downright ethically wrong in taking the actions they take to get a story and in some cases with some people that is true. However, if the 9/11 exhibit showed me anything, it was that there are a large portion of journalists in the world who will push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in order to capture a human experience that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. It is the coverage of those experiences that allows a person from a Southern California suburb to connect with a citizen of midtown Manhattan without ever meeting them. It is connection like that that allows us to live together in a country, in a state, in a city and in a neighborhood where human experience is our common thread.

I know I took that a bit farther than most, but it is the reason I want to be a journalist and it is the reason why I idolize the people who stand within a hundred feet of a collapsing building and people who go on missions with patrol squads in the Middle East. They are willing to risk everything for the sake of everybody.

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