THE BIG STORY, 2002: September 11th, 2001
Has anything really changed? In the aftermath of September 11, newspapers
hit the streets with 'extra' editions, networks and cable stations ran
news virtually non-stop. More foreign correspondents were dispatched
to South and Central Asia in a month than had probably set foot in the
region in the past 50 years.
Time magazine global affairs editor Michael Elliott, in "What
Has This Done to Us?" points out that September 11 shook some
media outlets into producing some of their best work in decades.
We are proud that the pages of the first issue of The Big Story carry
some of that work - such as Vincent
Laforet's Pulitzer Prize-winning photos of Afghan refugees.
Although journalism shined during the terrorist attacks and the months
following, it now seems that September 11 did not permanently alter
the media landscape in the way that many observers expected. Although
reporters formerly donning red, white and blue are now rightly asking
hard questions about what the federal government knew of terrorist plans
prior to September 11, it is troubling that some media outlets have
once again veered towards the insignificant - toward Gary Condit,
J. Lo and Survivor.
As Steve Brill points out in "Same
Old Brill", CNN covered the recent Robert Blake arrest like
it was an "O.J. Simpson slow-speed chase."
The most troubling part of this return to the frivolous is that it
nudges the American perspective back inward at the precise moment we
need to be looking outward - when bin Laden still remains at large,
when Pakistan and India are on the verge of war. Lowell Bergman, in
"Profit over public interest,
again," explains how networks have once again begun pandering
to marketing and advertising interests rather than living up to their
mission of educating the public.
The United States has created a global economy and is fighting a global
war. Yet with a few notable exceptions, we do not yet have a truly global
press - one that consistently looks beyond its borders for news.
We have the best journalists in the world - the most professional,
most efficient, and the most committed to the truth - yet in the
months following September 11, we again waste our precious media resources
on the trivial.
We can no longer afford to do so. In the new global game, the stakes
are too high.