Max Mertens

Covering 9/11: Now and Then

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Where were you on September 11, 2001, when you heard the news? I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I was walking home from school with my two younger brothers and we found my father watching the little black and white television in our kitchen. It only picked up three channels—two if there was a snowstorm or if it was particularly windy out—and I used it mostly for watching hockey games. “Two buildings in New York City were hit by planes,” my father said, as we watched the horrifying images on TV. In the days to follow, I remember watching more television and listening to radio interviews with eye witnesses, survivors and family members of those who’d been killed in the attacks. Long before I considered going to university for journalism, the events of 9/11 made me really think about the importance of journalism and how journalists deliver news to different audiences.

Ten years later, it’s safe to say that journalism and how people get their breaking news has changed. In 2001, there was no YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Smart and camera phones were not nearly as advanced as they are now. But today, some of Twitter’s worldwide trending topics are “#neverforget,” “Today is 9-10-11” and “#GodBlessAmerica.” The National Post invited readers to share their stories by writing in or using the hashtag #np911. CBC’s The Strombo Show did something similar with the hashtag #Sept11MakeTheCall. And many of the best stories marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11 use multimedia. If you visit the The New York Times website, you can listen to a collection of all the audio from the flights that day.

There is also plenty of anti-Muslim propaganda and 9/11 conspiracy theories marking the anniversary. Slate’s Jeremy Stahl writes,”As long as there is public distrust of government—and with the financial crisis, the collapse of the economy, and the recent debt ceiling debate, public opinion of Washington is at a record low—there will be conspiracy theories.” The best method of separating the truth from the misinformation is common sense. As the Toronto Standard‘s Bert Archer writes, “A healthy skepiticism is just that, healthy.”


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