Media changes after attacks

The skyline of New York City has been altered, and in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, so has the media.

Randy Miller, a USF mass communications professor, said the television coverage of the attacks following the first plane crash and the coverage that continues to follow, is unlike anything he has ever seen before. He said though journalists are supposed to remove themselves from the story so they can report objectively, reporters who were on the scene, and in some cases involved in the chaos, told the story more effectively than those reporting from afar.

“I would argue the role of journalists is to tell the story, and that story is beyond removal,” Miller said. “You could just as easily remove yourself from planet Earth.”

Miller said, by being part of the story, people were able to further identify with those who were proximate to the World Trade Center.

“I read in the American Journalism Review that the media was the glue that kept the country together that day,” Miller said. “And I think that was true.”

Miller said this war will be covered differently than the Gulf War because of the covertness of the operations.

“You don’t know when the first bomb is going to fall,” Miller said. “Access will be extremely limited, and in a lot of cases, there will be no access. There will be a lot less of what you saw in the Gulf War, like feature stories of the soldiers in their camps before going into battle.”

The power of the media was in full effect locally Friday as news outlets stormed the campus to cover the university’s reaction to the accusations of terrorist connections made Wednesday by Bill O’Reilly, a Fox News commentator.

Miller said media are investigating every aspect of this story since the attacks. But for the media’s concentration on USF, he said it raises a three-part question.

“Do they have the right question? Sure. Does the natural process of news production mean that more will be jumping on the story? Yes. Does it mean the story is right? I don’t know,” he said.

Another issue that stems from the attacks is whether the media is covering the right stories, and if so, doing a sufficient job providing useful information. One USF student said the media coverage was overkill.

“I think its over-exaggerated,” junior Watson Dorelus said. “The more we watch it, it makes the American people more angry. Give it a break.”

Katie Byrne, a freshman, said the media is doing a good job. But she said it isn’t giving enough attention to one aspect of the story.

“The attacks that are now happening on Arab-Americans,” Byrne said. “That should be covered more.”Yvonne Daniels, supervisor for Good to Go in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, said the news needs to be reported, but she has seen enough.

“To me, personally, it’s overkill,” Daniels said. “But it still has to be reported because you can’t forget it.”

Another issue that pertains to a journalist removing himself from a story, is the question that has been posed to editors and news directors countrywide. Is it appropriate for a reporter or a TV news anchor to wear an American flag pin?

Miller said he doesn’t mind the idea of wearing the flag, but it’s the way people interpret its symbolism that could cause problems. He referred to the Vietnam War when he said the flag took on different meanings.

“Protesters wore it on their clothes while others had bumper stickers that read ‘Love it or leave it,'” Miller said.Miller said if he was an editor, he probably wouldn’t want his reporters wearing the flag, but instead he would offer some alternatives.

“I would try to find a symbol more concrete. Like a black ribbon to honor the dead or a fire shield to honor the firefighters,” Miller said.

He said the flag becomes a problem when it prevents a journalist from doing his or her job sufficiently.

“It’s great to say, ‘I love my country,'” Miller said. “But when journalists love their country to the point that they don’t do their jobs correctly, it defeats the purpose of wearing the flag in the first place.”

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