- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

On Media

News organizations and journalists are struggling to establish a viable war footing that will enhance their credibility.
ABC News, for example, announced yesterday that it would no longer broadcast the hideous video footage of the World Trade Center disaster that has become a repetitive mainstay on cable and broadcast networks, local and national news.
In a memo to staffers, ABC President David Westin said the overuse of the explosive impact and collapse images was "gratuitous" and that still photos would be substituted only if the need was "critical."
Another executive said the footage risked becoming video "wallpaper" through overexposure.
Other networks have yet to follow suit.
It is a cautionary tale. Angry viewers have voiced disapproval of inappropriate television treatment through letter-writing and e-mail campaigns, many citing tasteless or overdone moments and biased shadings rather than lapses in factual coverage.
Some noted, for example, that NBC's Matt Lauer continued to talk over the two minutes of silence during a live broadcast of the New York Stock Exchange reopening on Monday.
Others took issue with Tom Brokaw, also of NBC, who called commentator Barbara Olsen "caustic" during an interview with her husband, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen.
She died on board American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon eight days ago.
The nation's largest radio conglomerate had troubles of its own yesterday after a brush with censorship.
Texas-based Clear Channel Communications, which operates 1,170 stations and reaches 110 million listeners, coped with a local gesture that got out of control.
On Friday, a programmer with one affiliate assembled a list of 150 songs with "questionable lyrics" that might prove offensive to an emotionally charged public. The tunes, he said, should be shelved for the time being.
The list included heavy metal dirges, classic rock anthems, folk songs and other works with violent or ironic underpinnings, ranging from Saliva's "Click Click Boom" to Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire." The list was posted at an Internet site, www.hitsdailydouble.com/news/songs.html, and widely interpreted as company policy, though some stations were playing songs like Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me" yesterday.
It was all due to "hypersensitivity" in the business community, according to company President Mark Mays, who added that such touchy decisions were best made on a local level.
"Clear Channel strongly believes in the First Amendment and freedom of speech," he said.
Late-night talk shows, such a fixture during political coverage of yore, emerged from a nearly weeklong silence Monday night in somber form.
CBS anchorman Dan Rather is receiving mostly laudatory reviews after he wept on David Letterman's talk show Monday night, as is Fox's Tony Snow, who also was moved to tears during a broadcast Sunday.
Last week's events have shaken both cable and broadcast networks to the core, prompting a massive rethinking of priorities and programming.
The new fall season will be delayed on ABC, NBC and CBS, while some shows have been canceled due to violent content. In an unprecedented gesture, those networks have pooled resources and plan a simultaneous benefit broadcast Friday night to raise money for relief efforts.
Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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