- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

The September 11 attacks remain open to interpretation among broadcasters who aspire to offer both solace and news without violating the sensibilities of weary viewers who know the story all too well.
Today, airwaves burgeon with carefully titled "tribute" or "retrospective" programming.
It is a delicate business. Well-intentioned remembrance and even legitimate reporting can come off as unnecessary exploitation a situation that prompted the Los Angeles-based Entertainment Industries Council to issue "Spotlight on a New Normal," a handbook for 3,000 Hollywood producers and writers that offers pointers on depicting terrorism with sensitivity, among other things.
Meanwhile, New York's ground zero has emerged as ground zero at least in the news business.
ABC, for example, offers three broadcasts from the attack site today, beginning with a retrospective on "Good Morning America."
"It's a good day for a status check on who were are and where we're going," said executive producer Shelley Ross. "We're also going to feature the forgotten fiancees of September 11 who never had their weddings, and men who became single fathers after they lost wives in the attacks."
Later in the day, Peter Jennings will anchor the evening news "live from ground zero," followed at 9 p.m. by "The Hunt for Osama bin Laden," also broadcast from ground zero and other locations.
"Whether right or wrong, a lot of our focus has been centered on bin Laden since September 11," said Todd Polkes, spokesman for ABC News. "Even as the White House administration has sought to de-emphasize his importance, our reporting reveals that behind the scenes, the effort to capture him and his followers is a top priority."
At NBC, this morning's "Today" emphasizes "how life has changed six months after September 11." Country singer Alan Jackson will perform "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," a tune dedicated to the victims of the attacks.
Anchor Tom Brokaw will also report NBC's evening news from ground zero, venturing to "the 'bathtub,' the deepest point within the pit below what had been the World Trade Center," according to an NBC spokeswoman.
CNN's coverage includes "exclusive video taken at ground zero by an Italian journalist right after the planes hit the World Trade Center towers," as well as several memorial services, according to a press release.
CBS and the Discovery Channel, meanwhile, received both accolades and criticism for "9/11" and "New York Firefighters: The Brotherhood of September 11th," respectively. The two documentaries were applauded for their restraint by critics but condemned by several victims' rights groups who felt the programming was premature and anything but cathartic for viewers.
And this is only the beginning of such fare.
On May 26, HBO plans to air "In Memoriam," a special that features diffused, still photos of victims falling from the burning trade towers, included because HBO did not want to "euphemize history" and that the story itself should be recorded "at the moment of impact," one producer told the Los Angeles Times last week.
Actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are producing a film based on the story of a WTC security guard who died helping others during the attack, and for months CBS has had a TV movie based on the September 11 crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Now actress Goldie Hawn has partnered with cable channel F/X to produce a dramatic film of the same event, this based on "Manifest Courage," a Vanity Fair article that detailed five phone calls made between doomed passengers and their families.
The article "did not spend very much time on the airplane on that day. Neither will we," promised F/X President Kevin Reilly. "This will not be 'The Taking of Flight 93.'"


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