Skip to comments.Big 3 Networks to Mark 9/11 with Harder Stance (They figure they can ambush the Administration now)
Posted on 08/12/2003 6:57:13 AM PDT by mhking
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - One month before the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, the broadcast networks seem set to change the tone of their coverage of that event from focusing on the event itself and the memorials to looking more at policy issues in the aftermath of the attacks.
The exact extent of the coverage is still uncertain as the networks await to hear from New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa., on their plans for the day, but it is highly unlikely that ABC, CBS and NBC News will repeat their 2002 menu of broad live coverage on Sept. 11.
"In the first year after that unspeakable tragedy, there was a need for the nation to come together," ABC News vp Jeffrey Schneider said. "For the second-year anniversary, we've obviously taking a very serious look at a host of security issues facing the country, and we're doing that for five days."
Networks carried minute-by-minute timelines from the day of the attacks and issued commentary about the state of the nation's psychology and preparedness at a time of when the government was constantly warning of further terrorist action.
ABC News' Peter Jennings seemed to sum up all of the networks' attitudes when he said at one point during the Sept. 11 coverage last year: "This is not, it seems to me, the moment to have a policy debate."
Not this year.
ABC is brandishing its plans to spend five days that week on a series of reports across most of its news vehicles -- on television, radio and the Internet -- that will examine, in effect, if the war on terrorism is working. All of ABC News' shows will ask aggressive questions about al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) and whether the $20 billion spent on security was worth it.
CBS said its plans are similar, though executives are unsure if all of its newsmagazines will address Sept. 11-related issues. "60 Minutes II" will reprise and update Scott Pelley's interview with President Bush (news - web sites). NBC News' plans "are still in formation," said Mark Lukasiewicz, executive producer of news specials and special projects.
Schneider said the aggressive tone does not represent a change from a year ago. "I take exception to that," he said. "That's our job. This is in the same vein. We've always had a healthy dose of skepticism when we approach any subject."
But CBS News senior vp news operations Marcy McGinnis conceded that the media might have hesitated at a time when patriotic fervor was sweeping the country.
"It's been swinging like a pendulum back and forth," she said. "The press, they questioned authority a little bit less than they normally would after 9/11. The mood of the country was such, it was a very different time. The mood of the country was very much 100% rally around the president, and I think the media probably wasn't as tough as they normally are."
But in the past few months, she said, "It went the other way after the war was over. There were no weapons of mass destruction and no connection between al-Qaida and (Saddam) Hussein."
Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the Tyndall Report, which monitors the broadcast news coverage, said there is no question that a year ago, the media "pulled their punches compared to what they are doing today."
For example, he said, little was said about intelligence flaws and Saudi Arabia's link to the attacks, issues the networks are likely to raise this year.
All the networks agreed they will downplay the sentimental coverage of a year ago. "The second anniversary feels different than the first one," NBC's Lukasiewicz said.
As for airing special reports in the vein of ABC, he said only, "We've been aggressively covering the important stories and important issues surrounding 9/11 all along, not just tied to that anniversary."
The networks did not ignore controversy during last year's anniversary week: There were stories on the Bush administration's increasing pressure on Iraq (news - web sites) and questions raised over how effective new security measures had been.
"A year ago, it was a chance to issue a report card on the state of the country's spirit, on the state of terrorism and the state of domestic preparedness," Lukasiewicz said.
This year, McGinnis said, all the networks will cover the same thing.
"The stories are the obvious ones," she said.
The bigger question is what did we get for our money with President Bill Clinton's national security team.
What is that? Mislead,Distort and Obfuscate? I expect nothing less from the Alphabet Channels.What is amazing is I'll bet they plan on doing it on every newsmagazine show and hopefully their viewership will be even lower than it is today.Does anyone actually watch CBS anymore?They'll never learn and I'm okay with that. LOL