Media played important role during tragedy

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   In the minutes and hours following the attacks on our nation on Sept. 11 one group of professionals did not have time to pause to take it all in. These people had to press on because the nation was counting on them for the most recent information, and it was their job to offer that information to the public as soon as it became available.
   Broadcasters, journalists and reporters worked around the clock with little food or rest. They were the first to receive information and had the daunting task of presenting the facts to the rest of their communities.
   Many of us in the news business felt as though our jobs had true meaning for the first time, because after the planes hit their targets all eyes turned to the media for information. The nation was in an information-gathering mode at that point and any news, no matter how bleak, was better than no news at all.
   Last Sept. 11, I was working at a radio station just a few hours outside of New York City. Many of the people that listened to our broadcast had family members working in the World Trade Center, and we as journalists felt our overwhelming responsibility to these people immediately.
   Four televisions were wheeled into the newsroom and each one was tuned to a different station. It was my job to get all confirmed information to the broadcasters as soon as possible. Food was brought in, but no one in the news department ate on Sept. 11. The reality of the words we wrote and spoke had a way of turning our stomachs, and by this time families of victims in the World Trade towers had started calling in for information.
   After sleeping at the station it was not until Sept. 12 that it all began to sink in. The news director was behind the microphone offering words of hope and inspiration when it all hit home. I will never forget the image of this grown man, a master of words, slumped over a microphone sobbing and speechless. They did not train us for this in journalism school.
   The scene at WCIK mirrored that of thousands of news stations and publications across the country. People who have spent their entire lives reporting on the tough stuff were called on to report on the toughest our nation has ever faced. It was the media's job to make sure the facts got out and the stories got told. There is not one journalist or broadcaster that has not been forever changed by the news they gave their audiences on Sept. 11, 2001.