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One thing became clear in the moments and hours following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: the newscasters and, by default, the news organizations themselves, were in a state of shock. Their shock was seen and heard in their television coverage; it was heard in their radio coverage; and it was seen in their Web site designs. Instead of the confident, precise assurance and reassurance that comes from prepared scripts, newscasters watched with the same incredible disbelief as the viewers, showing in one of those rare moments that they are, after all, humans, and that the news is, after all, produced by people with emotions and families.

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CNN: no time given

Despite the initial shock that both newscasters and viewers (or listeners or readers) felt, however, the attacks quickly became a drama, which according to Reuven Frank, former executive producer of the NBC Evening News, is what news should be:

Every news story should, without sacrifice of probity or responsibility, display the attributes of fiction, of drama. It should have structure and conflict, problem and denouement, rising action and falling action, a beginning, a middle[,] and an end. These are not only the essentials of drama; they are the essentials of narrative. (Epstein 4-5)
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MSNBC at 11:20 am

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MSNBC at 4:17 pm

In attempting to grasp the magnitude of the attacks, newscasters went back to the lessons they learned as aspiring journalists - repeating phrases, attempting to find someone to interview - and in doing so, began the process that dramatizes an event in such a way that a viewer can no longer distinguish between the event itself and the event of watching it on television (or hearing it on the radio or interacting with it on the World Wide Web). The event for the viewer, in the act of seeing it in a medium other than as a direct participant, is the act of watching it. The process by which an event (or any thing) is taken out of a perceived reality and placed in a new medium is what David Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin call remediation: "the representation of one medium in another. . . . [In doing so they] argue that remediation is a defining characteristic of the new digital media" (45). For Bolter and Grusin, "all mediation is remediation. . . . [A]t this extended historical moment, all current media function as remediators and that remediation offers us a means of interpreting the work of earlier media as well" (55).

In watching the news, listening to the radio, and looking on the Web, each one of us was attempting to learn more about what happened as a way to try to gain a greater understanding of what the people who died experienced. But that act of watching more TV, of listening to more radio, of searching more of the Web, takes us further and further from the event because each new image we see, each new eye-witness account we hear, or each new online memorial we look at is simply a remediation of the event. And in the act of watching and listening we become more conscious of two very important things: the medium itself and the effect it is having on ourselves. We are now not only further from the actual event, but have become part of the drama, of what Guy Debord calls the spectacle: the spectacle is "the very heart of society's real unreality. In all its specific manifestations - news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment - the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life" (13). For Debord, "All that once was directly lived has become mere representation" (12).

The implications are difficult and disturbing; and in exploring them this project will look at the way the terrorist attacks of September 11 were remediated on the radio, television, and on the World Wide Web. Each of the three sides to this web site are structured by a time line that will act as a guide for the discussion of the remediation of the attacks. There will be some cross discussion, as it has become impossible to discuss one medium without discussing the other, especially when television images are used on web pages to help promote the news organization's claims to exclusive material - a battle that started the moment of the attacks.

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CNN at 5:14 pm

To enter the discussion, please select one of the images below: radio, television, or web sites (currently only the web sites side is working):

small radio timeline.  times are not readable. small television timeline.  times are not yet listed. small web sites time line.  times are not readable.

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholdon-Smith. New York: Zone Books, 1994.

Epstein, Edward Jay. News from Nowhere: Television and the News. Chicago, Ivan R. Dee, 1973.

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last updated 11 March 2002
© 2001 by Bill Wolff