I was about to head to work as editor of the Plano (Tex.) Star Courier when the phone rang and my sister-in-law called to tell us to click on the television. Immediately upon seeing what was unfolding, I rushed to work and entered the office (which also housed the Channel 4 Collin County bureau) in time to view the second tower collapsed.
With a half dozen monitors in view, and everyone in the newspaper memorized in the same manner that one watches a fatal car crash unfold, I absorbed the magnitude of the event for a few moments. Unfortunately, it also meant split-second decisions to be made and local angles to be pursued – all coming from my desk.
I was no different than people in other jobs, which had to continue despite the tragedy 2,000 miles away. The police and fire personnel had to continue to protect the public, meals still had to be served, repairs to roads and homes had to be made … and the news had to be reported and subsequently published.
I gathered my five-person news staff, implored them to focus on the task at hand (which was reporting the news to the best of their ability) … without the distraction. Once the day was done, there would be time for reflection. Sadly, in the daily newspaper business, the next morning is a new day and a new cycle.
A flurry of phone calls followed to secure photos, contact Muslim sources in Plano for quotes and statements, answer readers questions (most of which were steeped in hysteria), edit the copy that was emerging and attend countless production and administration meetings to finalize deadlines on what would obviously be a special issue of the paper – one that people might want to retain for years to come.
At the end of one of the longest days in recent memory, our efforts resulted in perhaps the best issue of that publication in its history. In my stint, it was the single issue of which I could note with personal pride.
Since newsgathering is what it is, 9/11 only shifted who we examine more thoroughly, but not the process itself. The media seems quicker to draw unfounded conclusions based on improper comparisons to that day. But news is news and it gets published (on the print side) the same.
Personally, I see far more animosity toward people based on skin color, surnames and other phobias that are baseless. It makes me uncomfortable to know your character gets judges down the list after your nationality, religion and looks. We might be a “safer” country, but we are NOT a better nation for how we’ve reacted.