Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Ten years later, the media has forgotten how to remember

You always remember where you were and what you were doing on certain important days in history.

In the case of 9/11, we should remember what we felt in the days after. Because ten years later, America seems to have forgotten.

And the fault lies with the media.

The country was united right after the attack. We had a common enemy, Congress had put aside partisan politics.

Reporters and anchors wore their hearts on their sleeves, occasionally tearing up, not worrying about how it looked. Because if the story didn't affect you emotionally, you simply weren't human.

We were all New Yorkers back then. I was working in the South at the time, and even the Yankee jokes stopped. People who knew where I was from asked if I'd lost any family or friends. Thankfully I hadn't, but I, like most Americans, felt like I had.

My mom tells me the country felt the same way during World War Two. United against an enemy, pulling together. Though we were at war back then, she says it was one of the best times in this country. People helped one another. Colors and religion and opinions disappeared. Americans were just Americans.

That's how it felt right after 9/11. We didn't see people as liberals or conservatives, Christians or atheists, Republicans or Democrats. When Mike Piazza hit his famous home run for the Mets to defeat the hated rival Braves in the first game after the attack, the Braves had transformed from despised rivals to Americans who just happened to play baseball in Georgia. When the New York Giants played their first game in Kansas City, they received a standing ovation. They were no longer those arrogant, impatient, rude people from the Big Apple, but just Americans who lived in New York.

The country seemed to be turning a corner back to America's best days. Those three thousand souls that had been taken had given us a wake-up call.

A short time after the attack I was attending a seminar for television news managers. One day we were all talking about how our stations had covered the event. Some anchors wore flag pins. I wore a ribbon on my lapel during a live shot. One station draped a giant flag across the set.

And then someone said, "That's offensive." I thought, "Well, here we go. Back to normal. It was nice while it lasted."

Ten years later, the country is more divided than ever, with people looking for ways to be offended so they'll end up on television. Because that's our job now, to put angry people on the tube.

Everything is Republican versus Democrat, flaming liberal versus Bible-thumper. People aren't people anymore: the media instantly labels someone by what they believe, as if political affiliation is the most important thing about a person. You could be as giving as Mother Theresa, but if you voted the wrong way you're gonna get hammered by some network somewhere.

And everyone who doesn't agree with what you think is an idiot. They have to be. The people on television told you so.

I think back ten years to a dinner party we had at our home. I had invited our best friends, not even considering where their political affiliations lie. On this occasion my extremely liberal friend ended up talking to my very conservative friend. They got along great. A couple of nice guys with wives and children. Politics and religion never entered the conversation. They're both great people, great friends of mine, and I could care less how they vote. Either would help the other in time of need, not thinking about the other's opinion.

Of course, that was then. This is now. According to some people on television, we're supposed to hate anyone who doesn't think a certain way. Check the labels on people when you meet them. If they're a certain religion, belong to a certain party, voted for a certain person, simply dismiss them as morons.

Because we're smarter and you should listen to us. After all, we're on television.

We have forgotten how to remember. What we felt during those days after 9/11. How we wanted to help in any way possible, even if we were miles away from New York City. How we learned the guys at the other station were no longer the enemy, but the competition.

As journalists we have great influence, though lately the public has seen through the often transparent attempts to change minds. We are supposed to serve the public trust, yet the public no longer trusts us.

Today, three thousand souls are trying to tell us something. Again. It's time we listened to them as we once did.

It's time to remember. Remember the souls who were lost. And while you're at it, remember that your job is to tell people what you know, not what you think.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


No comments: