September 11, 2003

And the Things They Wrote

Sept. 11. 2001, changed journalism in this country - partly for the better, partly for the worse.

TowersThe New York Times was a giant awakened, rising from slumber and bringing all its journalistic muscle to bear in a display of reporting, writing and photography so awesome not even the Raines-Blair scandal could diminish its value.

Bloggers bloomed everywhere, creating a chorus of popular journalism, much of it reasoned and poignant, a lot of it junk, all of it a sign that many members of the news audience are no longer content just being in the audience.

Fair and balanced broadcast commentary gave way to shouting and bullying. "Shut up" replaced discourse. Ratings rose. Civility declined.

Such are the rewards of democracy and the First Amendment. The multiplicity of voices remains our greatest weapon against the conservative forces - religious, political, social - who threaten to deprive us of our freedoms. Not all journalism is great, but in a democratic society all of it is necessary.

Much was written today about 9/11. Here's what I liked:

 Jeff Jarvis: "It's the children's voices that make this so much harder. I'm standing on the street crying as I have not been able to in two years. I'm not alone. The street is crowded with people who have come to mourn and pay their tributes. They're crying, too. It's the children, their loss, their pain, their strength. It's the children who make me cry." [ Read it ]

 New York Times, editorial: It seemed as if two great tides emanated in response to the tragedy of that Tuesday. One was a sense of generosity, a deep compassion that expressed itself in immediate acts of cooperation and support. The other was a sense of patriotism, a strong consciousness of our American identity. When those two tides overlapped, as they often did in the months after 9/11, the result was impressive and profoundly moving. But we have also seen, in the past two years, a regrettable narrowing of our idea of patriotism. [ Read it ]

 Josh Marshall: "There is something unbearable about seeing people clinging to hope when, you know, there is no hope. Their fate is sealed; they just didn't know it yet. Those were the pictures that even today made me grit my teeth and twist up my face." [ Read it ]

 Washington Post: "The darkness went on a grimly long time, and Juan Cruz-Santiago was not sure it would ever lift. It outlasted the early days, when doctors sewed his eyelids shut to protect what was left of his sight." [ Read it ]

 The Guardian, Brian Whitaker: "The war, as conceived by Mr Bush, also treats terrorism in a vacuum, as a phenomenon that is simply evil and not the product of history or circumstance: never mind the injustices or the violence committed by governments - all that the suicide bombers want is a business-class ticket to paradise." [ Read it ]

 Wall Street Journal, Lawrence Kaplan: "When September 11 Americans look back at the attacks, they see an event that requires an overhaul of national priorities. When September 10 Americans look back at the attacks, they see an event whose significance is emotional, even spiritual, but most of all historical." [ Read it ]

 Slate: "But there is also plenty that we think we know but don't. I'm not talking about shoddy conspiracy theories (that Jews were warned not to show up for work at the World Trade Center, for example) believed by the ignorant and the paranoid, but widespread misconceptions held by everyday Americans. Here are six of the most common." [ Read it ]

 Salon: "New York may be a wildly Democratic city that chose Al Gore over George W. Bush by a 4:1 margin in 2000. But that didn't stop the White House from forming a close bond with the city during its darkest hour." [ Read it ]

 New York Times, Portraits of Grief: Do not forget these people. [ Read it ]

Posted by Tim Porter at September 11, 2003 09:35 AM

Thanks, Tim. This was really good reading. Thanks.

Posted by: d rabin on September 12, 2003 10:07 AM

Harry Potter is right: "The world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters."

Posted by: jozef on September 13, 2003 06:36 AM
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