- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

With growing dread and melancholy, the public is bracing for marathon TV coverage of the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks and with good reason.

Between broadcast and cable networks, there will be about 100 hours of it from dawn to dusk.

Enough already, says the National Mental Health Association.

The group issued a no-nonsense warning to viewers yesterday to "cut back on TV time" or risk an encounter with depression, irritability, apathy, fearfulness and a host of other disquieting symptoms. Volunteer, exercise, take a nap, go to church, they say.

But don't feel compelled to watch.

The National Mental Health Association, or NMHA, also challenged networks to take "viewers' mental state into consideration" and asked them to warn anytime graphic footage from the attacks was to follow.

"Some viewers will react just fine, some will be overwhelmed. The networks really have to think about this and be responsible," said NMHA spokeswoman Lea Ann Browning-McNee.

Along with sad remembrances or unsettling moments, broadcasters should provide information about hot lines, counseling and other resources, she said.

Even journalists themselves fear shrill overpackaging of the attacks before the country has had a chance to make sense of it all.

"We're two weeks away from September 11, and that incessant scrambling you may hear is various networks jockeying to out-memorialize one another," the Boston Globe noted this week.

"Are we ready to visit this emotionally? Will this be a healthy thing?" asked Purdue University communications professor Glenn Sparks. "Some people may want to remember. Others will want no part at all."

The networks face the quandary of providing legitimate news coverage and appropriate context on the anniversary without yielding to the siren call of sensationalism.

CNN's "America Remembers" coverage which begins at 6 a.m. and continues for 15 hours on September 11 includes 25 correspondents and live reports from ground zero, the Pentagon and Afghanistan. They promise "breadth and worldwide depth," according to a CNN spokeswoman yesterday.

"As we commemorate what is perhaps the most significant news event in anyone's lifetime, we will be ever mindful of the sensitive and painful nature of much of the coverage," she said.

At least one link between television and a troubled populace has been established. A psychological study of 2,300 Americans released Aug. 7 by the North Carolina-based Triangle Research Institute found a direct correlation between post-traumatic stress disorder and time spent watching September 11 coverage.

"The authors suggest that those individuals with higher levels of symptoms may have watched more TV coverage," the study said.

A Purdue University study found that young viewers were particularly confused about the attacks. When asked where the war on terrorism was being fought, one 7-year-old answered, "in Osama bin Laden," according to child specialist Judith Myer-Walls.

Meanwhile, eight cable channels will make their own statement by suspending programming Sept. 11 between 8:46 a.m. and 10:29 a.m. the time of the attacks on New York last year. Arts & Entertainment, History, Biography, History International, HGTV, Food Network, Fine Living and DIY Network channels will show either the names of victims or "images, words and music to inspire quiet reflection," according to one spokesman.

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