9/11/02

One year later, local media struggle to make sense of the terrorist attacks--and their own coverage

"But if we don't use, say, images of the plane heading toward the tower, well, it would be dishonest not to use them," Vetter says. "We really tried, as best you can, to capture the emotion of the week. Both the clear horror of the day and the triumph of the spirit afterward. And in the rest of the paper, then and throughout the week, we'll be looking at all the other obvious stories: the security and civil liberties issues, revisiting some of the people who were involved, asking, 'Is Texas any safer?'...things we feel people need to know."

Nationally, of course, the onslaught of remembrance has begun. Other media throughout the country are planning bigger or longer tributes than many local outlets. Already you can read the "9/11: America Remembers" package of stories on msnbc.com, or Newsweek's special report, "America: A Year After." Mong understands the deluge of coverage from the East Coast. "It's a very different situation in New York City or D.C., where they witnessed so much devastation," he says. "Which is why if we were The New York Times, we would approach our coverage differently."

Rex Seline, managing editor/news at the Star-Telegram, echoes Mong. "We've chosen not to be comprehensive. We'll have plenty of coverage, but we don't want to do it just to rehash and relive it. We don't want to force people to go through it all again if they don't want to."

Seline, who has worked at The New York Times, says he agrees with most of his media brethren that although it's too easy to cross the line in 9/11 coverage and look crass, it's too important a milestone to ignore. The risk is worth the coverage because of the indisputable life-altering consequences of that day.

"I have been away from the photos for many months," he says. "But I walked by and saw some of the old photos on the wall of one of our [graphic] designers when we were putting this together, and it's still shockingly powerful stuff. You don't need to yell too loud to make your point about the impact this had. Those images tell the story themselves."

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