9/11 and the news: sensationalism vs sensitivity

The 9/11 memorial museum brought an onslaught of emotion. As a millennial who grew up in a world shaped by the events of September 11th, but who wasn’t  necessarily old enough to grasp the depth of tragedy until visiting the memorial, it was chilling to be exposed to the photos and artifacts that have been collected following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

What stood out in particular were the news clippings and video footage displayed in the museum. It got me thinking: how would I have covered this story as a journalist? How did media organizations balance the human element with reporting the hard news? And given the widespread fear and paranoia, what part did media play in uniting America in the wake of national tragedy?

In exploring the newspaper clippings in the museum and viewing the footage of anchors like Matt Lauer addressing  9/11, I noticed the lean towards sensitivity rather than sensationalism. Trigger warnings were issued before showing particularly violent or upsetting scenes. Many personal stories were shared, in part because technology allowed citizens to capture footage from street level, including the reactions to the collapse of the buildings. Stories focused on the search for missing people, the bravery of first responders, and the resiliency of volunteers. From what I could see, the media focused largely on human elements– particularly themes concerning the endurance of the human spirit.

The 9/11 memorial provided an interesting exploration of the way media can actively bring people together in times of division, fear, and uncertainty, as opposed to creating stories that enhanced those emotions.


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