Journalism After 9/11

Author:Birge, Elizabeth
SUMMARY

Terrorist attacks increased difficulty in keeping personal biases in check. Here, Birge and Nicholson present how the Sep 11, 2001 and terrorist attacks have affected the US members of the media to their jobs. Journalists and journalism students began having visceral reactions to news of terrorism. Paul Niwa, a visiting professor at Emerson College in Boston and former producer for CNBC, said... (see full summary)

 
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Dale Harrison showed his Media Law and Ethics students a set of photos this spring and asked them which they would publish.

The first photos showed Saddam Hussein's sons - Uday and Qusay - dead following a firefight with U.S. troops in Mosul in July 2003. The grisly photos showed both with dried blood on their faces. Qusay appeared to have a slash across his face.

Yes, media outlets chose correctly when deciding to publish these photos, the students said. The photos helped verify identity and confirm their deaths, they said.

The second set of photos showed the charred bodies of two American contractors hanging from a trestle after an ambush on their vehicle set it aflame. Villagers dragged the bodies through the streets of Al Fallujah and then strung them over a bridge this spring.

No, media outlets made a mistake publishing this photo, the students said. The victims' families may not have been notified, and the images are too disturbing, students said.

Harrison, chairman of the Department of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University, said the difference in attitudes highlights a crisis in consistency that's been growing in journalism sin ce Sept. 11,2001.

He returns to the very basic question: "What does it mean to be a journalist?"

"The age-old question is whether a journalist is a citizen or journalist first," said Harrison. "Typically journalism students are very different from the general student population ... and have a natural proclivity for skepticism."

But following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, journalists and journalism students began having visceral reactions to news of terrorism, he said.

"Their reaction has been as Americans and not as students of journalism," he said. "They should have a different reaction to (these events, but) it has been very difficult to shake students out of that (visceral response)."

The reaction to images of the Hussein brothers emphasizes this, he said. The Bush administration said that it released the images for verification and identification purposes only, Harrison said.

His students "bought hook, line and sinker" the administration's explanation, he said.

The pain terrorist attacks have caused the United States clearly affected how members of the media do their jobs, some believe.

"Wc were so hurl by what happened as a society it was huixl for us to be objective, hard for us to make rational decisions," said Paul Niwa, a visiting professor at Emerson College in Boston and former producer for CNBC, where he...

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