March 3, 2021

Media Outlets Walk Fine Line in 9/11 Anniversary Coverage

But in documenting the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is a fine line between commemoration and exploitation.

Mindful of this, television networks, magazines and others planning special coverage of the anniversary have weighed issues like how much American audiences can stomach, and how much such a solemn occasion should be viewed as a business opportunity.

There are no uniform answers, and media outlets are approaching it differently. Time magazine is running no ads at all. Newsweek and People have sold ads just as they would for any other issue. Cable channels, which are devoting big blocks of their schedules to Sept. 11-related programming, are also largely running commercials as usual. But there exceptions; CNN, for example, is to show a joint HBO-Time special commercial free. In its regular Sunday edition on Sept. 11, The New York Times is publishing a special section that will contain only commemorative ads.

“There’s no precedent for something like this,” said Lawrence C. Burstein, the publisher of New York magazine, who added that he initially did not expect to sell many ads in the 10th anniversary issue. But to his surprise, he found that advertiser demand was strong, with the magazine experiencing a 46 percent increase in the number of ad pages in the Sept. 5-12 double issue, compared with the Sept. 13 issue last year.

He and the New York sales and editorial team decided to forgo the typical promotional campaign employed for special issues and gave advertisers who had already bought space in the magazine the option of bowing out.

“It is something that touches people in all kinds of different personal ways,” Mr. Burstein said, “and I felt like it was a decision that the advertiser had to make.”

There are few publications or television channels that are not tackling the issue. The Military Channel will explore why the Pentagon sustained far less damage than the Twin Towers. Animal Planet will run a special episode of the series “Saved,” about survivors of the attacks whose “unique bonds with their pets helped them deal with loss and cope through pain,” according to the show’s promotional materials.

Showtime will broadcast “The Love We Make,” about Paul McCartney’s efforts to organize a benefit concert. CNN is planning four separate documentaries. Fox News is showing a documentary about the construction of the Freedom Tower.

The National Geographic Channel, which is partly owned by the News Corporation, secured one of the biggest coups of the season — its exclusive interview with George W. Bush, the president when the attacks occurred. They wanted to get ahead of the avalanche of coverage and decided to show the interview on Aug. 28.

The interview, heavily promoted on other News Corporation channels including Fox News, was secured with the help of a producer, Peter Schnall, who headed a number of behind-the-scenes programs about the White House while Mr. Bush was in office.

By chance, the scheduled two-day interview began the day after American forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Michael Cascio, the senior vice president for production at the National Geographic Channel, said Mr. Bush and his associates had placed no restrictions on the interview.

Mr. Cascio has wondered whether the week of programming his network has planned is sufficient. “Given its magnitude — it is the singular event in our lifetime, in the last 50 years,” he said, “we decided a week almost isn’t enough.”

The National Geographic Channel has scheduled a marathon of related coverage on Sept. 11.

Other outlets also decided to try to get out ahead of the pack. Adam Moss, the editor of New York magazine, decided its issue — an A to Z compendium of Sept. 11-related vignettes — should be published well ahead of the 10th anniversary so it would reach readers before the onslaught of coverage began.

“I’m sure, inevitably, people will feel it’s too much and shut down at some point,” he said. “We just hoped we could get what we feel is a pretty good issue out there before others did.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f7f8956e0da69d4632d0b388329b45aa

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