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Please use 9/11 imagery with restraint

We are now well into 10th anniversary programming to mark the terrible events of September 11, 2001. I’ve already seen, heard and read numerous stories, and there’s going to be a lot more.

Personally, I find it all a bit much. I recognize that this is a major story, one that changed the world as we know it, but it’s an anniversary – not a reoccurrence of the event itself.

I also find the self-congratulatory coverage of how wonderful we Newfoundlanders are, in how we hosted all those airline passengers, just a little awkward. This is who we are. This is the way we are. It’s not a surprise. When do we stop patting ourselves on the back? When does the acknowledgement of a job well done turn into excessive boasting?

Anyway, I am rolling with it, tuning out where necessary and actually enjoying a few of the stories.

But I do have one request, of CBC in particular: please go easy on the shocking footage.

I speak, of course, about the video clips of jets colliding into towers, people leaping frm buildings, and those buildings collapsing into a cloud of dust. We are going to see this footage a number of times over the next few days. I accept that. But I think it needs to be used sparingly, and only when truly germane to the story itself. The subject may be someone affected by 9/11 – directly or indirectly – but we don’t need to cut away several times during the interview to scenes of jets hitting towers.


Because we are looking at a scene of mass murder. When those jets hit the tower, the passengers inside were either crushed, torn apart by serrated metal or incinerated alive. Death was mercifully quick, but horrifying. At the same instant, hundreds of office workers in the towers were killed or injured by the initial impact, and many more were burned alive in its aftermath. The heat was so intense that some leaped to their deaths. Even more died, crushed beyond recognition, when the towers collapsed.

I am not desensitized to these images, and what they mean. I have not allowed that to happen. Whenever I see this video, I think about the people who died. Seeing the jets hit the towers multiple times, from various angles, is disturbing and traumatic.

And I expect I am not alone.

I won’t belabor this point. I understand that TV is all about images. But, on Wednesday evening, in two stories, Here & Now showed four video clips of the jets hitting the towers, one clip of the tower collapsing, and – worst of all – a painfully long shot of a person falling from a building.

This was for local stories, with local angles. There was no need to show those horrifying images.

Thursday evening was only slightly better. There were three clips of the jets hitting the towers; two in a national piece and one local. And there was no need of it with the local piece, in particular, which featured an interview with a young woman in Gander who had received a 9/11 scholarship.

I expect we’ll see a lot more coverage of this disaster in the days ahead. (I’m working on a retrospective post myself.) I only hope that these images of mass murder are used with respect, restraint and consideration of those who have not become desensitized to them.

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Recent comments

  • Debbie Brett
    September 10, 2011 - 17:00

    And I'm sure those left behind appreciate your vivid description of what happened to their loved ones upon impact. Perhaps you should have used a little restraint of your own.

  • Brian Williams
    September 10, 2011 - 10:56

    You have encapsulated my feeling and views on the media coverage of the anniversary of 9/11 very well Mr. Meeker. I was particularly disturbed when CBC showed those images this past Wednesday, there was certainly no need of those images to be played in that story. I have and will be listening and watching much less this weekend.

  • W McLean
    September 09, 2011 - 18:59

    When does the acknowledgement of a job well done turn into excessive boasting? = = = December 2001? It is a bit unseemly.