Covering the media's latest obsession

January 15, 2004

 






 

 

 

 

THE BIG STORY, 2002: September 11th, 2001

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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.


 

 


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