In PR we absorb, study and work with the media every day. But that doesn’t mean we’re not left scratching our heads over certain editorial decisions. Tuesday marked 11 years since the 9/11 attacks. While the memory is still fresh in so many Americans’ minds, many news organizations seem to have missed that memo. The worst disregard for the anniversary took place on the TODAY show. While its morning show counterparts held a moment of silence for the victims, NBC aired a live interview with Kardashian clan matriarch Kris Jenner. She discussed important issues like her recent breast augmentation and reminded women to check the expiration date of breast implants. Thanks for that, Kris.
TODAY’s disregard was such a slap in the face to survivors and victims. In 2001, Americans turned to their morning news shows as they learned the horrific news. Viewers tried to digest what had happened, and stayed glued to the news channels in the weeks that followed. NBC maintains that it has not held a moment of silence in previous years (with the exception of last year’s 10th anniversary) and refuses to apologize for it. Broadcast television has an opportunity to live moments of time with its viewers, and TODAY failed to commemorate 9/11 in a respectful and honorable way. While TODAY may have covered 9/11 in other ways, producers should have realized the insensitivity of the segment’s timing.
The New York Times covered the anniversary, but didn’t grant it space on its coveted front page. The paper’s stand is simple: there wasn’t anything newsworthy enough to land it on the front page. Its Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote an interesting blog post addressing the challenges in covering what she describes as “anniversary journalism” which often comes with little to no news component. Future NYT staffer Andrew Parson supported the argument via Twitter: “A news organization’s job is not to commemorate; it is to report news.” What’s interesting is that both the Times and the Wall Street Journal placed 9/11 photos prominently on today’s front page. Could it be they were feeling the flak from the yesterday’s absence? Perhaps – but it’s easy for us to forget that while we have a 24/7 news cycle, print journalism can only cover one day’s events, the NEXT day.
I agree with the Times’ stance. It is a news organization, reporting on the day’s news – emphasis on the “new” in news. Could they have used the image of the American flag at ground zero yesterday that it featured on today’s front page instead of the photo of the Chicago teacher strike? Of course. Should they have? Probably. That being said, I respect that the Times acknowledged the shift in coverage and recognized the choice as one with which the editorial team was struggling.
As for the TODAY show, the Kardashians are famous for, quite frankly something my mother wouldn’t want me to say in public. They represent the complete antithesis of what we felt on 9/11 and in the days after, which is what makes TODAY’s editorial decision so difficult to swallow. I believe Americans turn to programs like TODAY to remember and feel, more so than they do when they open the pages of national newspapers, which is why I find TODAY’s decision (and blatant lack of sympathy afterward) to be so much worse.
So what do you think? Am I wrong? Does journalism have a responsibility to remember the past as much as it does to report on the present?