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Media in the mix of a tragedy

As the nation reflected on the day that the Twin Towers fell, the media dedicated its broadcast Tuesday to the Sept. 11 anniversary, calling it one of the most tragic events in America’s history. Images and personal stories were recaptured from Sept. 11 when the United States came under attack.

Many questions weighed on the minds of Americans Sept. 11, 2001, and now after the first anniversary of Sept. 11, a new question unfolds. Has the extended coverage of the terrorist attacks lost its significance with Americans?

Some, such as USF psychology major Nicey Martin, said it has.

“We must remember those who were lost, but we don’t need to completely cover our media in it,” Martin said.

Some news entities chose to mark the beginning of the terrorist attack anniversary coverage much earlier.

The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times began dedicating a section of their newspapers Sept. 1 to the anniversary.

And national news networks broadcast a series of reports this past weekend to remember how the events of Sept. 11 unfolded and affected Americans.

“They started way too early,” Martin said. “It’s not Christmas.”

Along with the near 3,000 lives lost at the World Trade Center, the media dedicated airtime early Tuesday to mourn the lives lost when hijackers crashed a plane into the Pentagon. And a solemn memorial was held at the field in Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed when passengers acted against hijackers, who planned to attack another U.S. building.

Ken Killebrew, assistant professor for mass communications, said it is the media’s responsibility to reflect on the significance of a tragedy. But too much coverage, he said, could have the opposite result.

“It actually might be undermining its importance,” Killebrew said. “The media needs to be more reflective on some of the content.”

Killebrew said some issues, such as whether security has improved since last year and how the attacks changed the lives of others, have received an unnecessary amount of attention.

“Asking what this means or what we were doing wrong or right on that day is worthy of greater discussion,” Killebrew said, “rather than jamming this 9/11 stuff down people’s throats.”

While stories that reflect how Sept. 11 changed the lives of so many are relevant, Killebrew said the public can easily become exhausted with repetitive topics.

“Some of it is obvious overkill,” Killebrew said. “I don’t know if recapping the stories changes it.”

Junior Matt Hartz said the media’s coverage of the anniversary is only what should be expected after such a tragedy.

“It’s changed our lives forever,” Hartz said. “We need to reflect on the events that happened; if not, we’re going to forget what happened.”

National news stations dedicated air time throughout the day to remember the tragedy as well as report on the possibility of more terrorist threats in the United States. Occasional updates of Florida’s gubernatorial primary were broadcast on local news stations, as well.

Killebrew said spending too much time on past news could cause current news issues to be neglected.

“Obviously, that day’s news doesn’t get covered, and that makes an impact,” Killebrew said. “I’m all for recognizing it’s been a year, but we don’t need to be respinning the tales.”

Killebrew said he agrees that local newspapers may have started their coverage of the anniversary too early. However, Killebrew said when you work for the media, that is a different story.

“The problem is for the media, this hit home,” Killebrew said. “If you worked in the media, you lived with those images day in and day out. It might be more helpful if this week is reflective in leading us to an understanding of where our country should be.”