Friday, September 7, 2007

Viewers Force NYC TV Station to Show 9/11 Ceremony, Not Regis & Kelly

FOR THE SIXTH anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, WABC - the ABC affiliate in New York City - thought about not showing the entire ceremony from Ground Zero.

It would have been the first time that a New York news station opted not to broadcast the entire ceremony in which the names of each of the 2,749 victims are read aloud before a gathering of victims' families.

"We hope to be respectful to the families and serve our audience," WABC's news director told the New York Daily News. "This is not about ratings, it's about what's right."

The station originally announced that it would broadcast only the beginning of the ceremony live and then broadcast the remainder on their website and digital channel.

On their regular channel, WABC planned to broadcast "Live with Regis and Kelly" followed by "Rachael Ray" and "The View."

But viewers complained and this morning, WABC announced they would broadcast the entire ceremony live on all of their outlets - web, digital channel and regular channel.

Did the viewers have the right to demand the entire ceremony? Does a news station have an obligation to present this story?

Was the original decision to not broadcast the ceremony a straight-forward business decision? Someone had to be the first station to not broadcast these ceremonies that are the same every year, with very little audience interest, right?

Wasn't the station really saying that America needs to move on?

If you were the news director, would you have caved so quickly? Or would you have stuck by your convictions?

Or would you have shown the ceremony in full all along?


UPDATE FROM 9/14: New York Daily News says only one station per year should broadcast the 9/11 ceremony.

UPDATE FROM 9/17: NY Daily News readers say its time to cut back 9/11 ceremony coverage.

31 comments:

Chris said...

I don't think the station had an obligation to cover the event. I gave them credit for taking the risk of not viewing it, and wished they hadn't caved. It's not as if they weren't going to cover it, they just weren't going to cover it in it's entirety. And not as if no one else was going to cover it, so if people wanted to see it, they would have to either press two buttons on the remote, or go online. At the same time, if their viewers felt strongly enough to voice their dissatisfaction, the station was smart to respond, from a business perspective. I just hope that not broadcasting it wouldn't be called "unpatriotic" or any of that nonsense. Interesting that judging by the news director's original comment of not airing it and "doing what's right", it would be safe to now infer that he has decided to do what he must feel is wrong. That's the lack of integrity in my opinion.

Jessica Grimm said...

If I was the news director, I would've stuck with my original convictions.

What happened on 9-11 was a tragedy, no doubt about that. However, there does come a point when we need to start moving on.

Chances are, the people who it really matters to will be at the ceremony in person.

Doanh said...

If I was in charge, I would have chosen not to air the entire ceremony. I definitely don’t want to downplay the significance of any victim, but at some point, people are going to stop feeling patriotic during the reading and change the channel. It’s a stupid business move and would kill ratings. While I don’t feel this way personally, I would consider it if I was in the media business; I know that money has a lot to do with it. It’s true that they are not obligated, but they would lose respect and trust from many people, and probably more money in the long run, if they didn’t finally decide to show it all.

"This is not about ratings, it's about what's right." (BS)

Who really wants to listen to the names of 2700+ people? Not me. (Me, as a random TV viewer) If your family was affected by the tragedy, you could be there in person and not just watching it on TV anyway. If people claim that it doesn’t do justice for the ceremony to be partially on TV, the internet AND the digital channel, I say it’s no longer about morals and being patriotic. It’s about egotism. Move on.

Kylee said...

finally, a new topic!

There are so many ways to look at this, really, morally, ratings wise, etc. Happy people equals high ratings, I don't care what the director said, part of this was about how not airing the ceremony could have an effect on the station's future ratings. On the other hand, there are just a few things that don't match up here.

a)If the ceremony has such a small audience, then why would the station show so much concern?

b)If the station really felt that America needs to "move on," then why did the news director say that airing the entire ceremony was "what's right?" What he really believes here isn't clear to me.

c)I don't think showing the ceremony/not showing it was a matter of interest, but really a matter of showing respect. No one is going to come out and say, "I'm sick of watching this every year." (Well, maybe some very outspoken people will.)

d)This ceremony is aired ONCE a year. Regis and Kelly is aired EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR. I think we can all go one day without admiring Kelly's tan skin, don't you?

I don't know, I'm conflicted. I think I just confused myself.

Doanh said...

a)If the ceremony has such a small audience, then why would the station show so much concern?

It does have a small audience each year, and the numbers only go down from there. However, the number of people who complained about not airing the ceremony’s entirety will be nothing near the number of people who will actually watch. Meaning, people complain in the name of patriotism, but won’t really act upon it and sit through 3,000 names when they are alone in their living rooms with nobody to confirm their patriotism.

b)If the station really felt that America needs to "move on," then why did the news director say that airing the entire ceremony was "what's right?"

To salvage what was left of their reputation. If he just went out and admitted that he cared about ratings, but aired the ceremony anyway, it would be obviously insincere and there would be no point in doing it.

c)I don't think showing the ceremony/not showing it was a matter of interest, but really a matter of showing respect. No one is going to come out and say, "I'm sick of watching this every year." (Well, maybe some very outspoken people will.)

I think this goes back to the egotism issue. I think it’s more realistic to say I’m sick of this. We can all show respect in different ways. Sitting in front of your TV for hours proves nothing; except that you need a job.

d)This ceremony is aired ONCE a year. Regis and Kelly is aired EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR. I think we can all go one day without admiring Kelly's tan skin, don't you?

I don’t even watch Regis and Kelly, but then I would rather start watching her tan skin than watch the ceremony, even once a year.

Geo said...

Aren't there times when the media shouldn't be so focused on making money, and instead, focus on doing what is right? So what if most people don't want to watch the long drawn out name reading? Some people do.

The attacks on 9/11 literally stopped the world in its tracks for several days - shutting down businesses and governments, scaring people from going to places where there would be crowds. It scared people into saving money rather than spending (which altered the economy). Security is tighter everywhere now. Airline travel has become expensive and annoying.

That day sparked a war that has lingered for years. We are a divided country now in part because of how we reacted (as a country) to the attacks. The ensuing war has made America seem like monsters to much of the rest of the world.

That day changed a lot. It was probably the single biggest event of our lifetimes, and one of the single most horrific days ever in terms of lost lives.

Doesn't the media have a responsibility to honor those people, and remember that day?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)

Keisha Frazier said...

I'm from NYC and as a New Yorker I guess you sort of learn to feel that the world revolves around NYC. I had no idea that the rest of the world/country wasn’t as affected by 9/11 as New Yorkers were. But considering that, I feel that maybe one regular news channel and then definitely NY1, the local cable channel should cover the entire thing. But even as a NYer it makes me really upset to watch the ceremony every year. It's not a matter of forgetting, but the memory is there for those that it exists for, it can't be healthy to keep reliving the pain every year. The media does have a responsibility to honor these people and remember the day, and they do as they show like a clip with the towers and like a ribbon as they transition to commercials. But how long can media keep 'advertising' 9/11? What about Pearl Harbor then? Or like, even better, Hurricane Katrina Day? I don't know when that is, should we stop the normal tv shows every year and show footage of Hurricane Katrina?

I think to cover the whole ceremony is too much, maybe a 10 year memorial or something is better. If I was in charge of the station, I would have not played it the full ceremony; I would have stick to my original convictions and continued on with the news of that day. Every day bad things happen, people die, and don’t those events deserve to be shared as they normally would instead of being replaced with memories of the past? I don't know if I'm even making sense, I just know I will not be watching television at all that day.

Rachel M Heuckroth said...

If the majority of viewers of ABC demanded to see the ceremony in full length, then I don't see the harm in pushing back the regular programming shows until Wednesday. America is still sensitive to the tragedy - it has only been 6 years - so I don't think it's appropriate to tell them that it is time for them to move on with their lives. Some people lost the one single person who meant most to them in this world and if one day out of the year they would like to see a tribute to them, it's not right for the news director of ABC to deny them that much, especially if they are in a situation where they can't go to the ceremony in person.

If I were the director I would have had planned to show the ceremony in its entirety from the start because as much as I love Rachael Ray, she's not as important as celebrating the lives of lost Americans and allowing viewers to be a part of that.

Katherine Albin said...

Personally, the events on 9/11 hit close to home. I have relatives and close family friends that work in the greater Manhattan area. My aunt even works in the World Trade Center area, the building right across from ground zero. Although I do feel that it was a tragic day in American history, I don't feel the need to air a memorial service on television for the sake of people mourning. Like many of you have been saying, the people who have been affected by the events will actually be there at the memorial and not watching the service on television.

I also thought, if we have memorial services for the events like 9/11, why not memorial events on television for other American tragedies? I haven't seen a televised event for the Oklahoma City Bombing, or a memorial for the students and teachers affected at the Columbine High School Shooting. Aren't these good enough for television? It's not like they happened without an impact to our society and way we live our lives, just like the attacks on 9/11.

Maria Zankey said...

To me, it's a scary thing to think that television is what legitimizes our patriotism; I'd like to think that's not the case.

If I was the news director, I would have stuck with my intuition.

Anonymous said...

I think the original decision not to broadcast had very little to do with monetary issues. After 9/11 all anyone wanted to do was restore the "normal order" of life. Instead, we couldn't escape the suction of the the media which constantly replayed the days events for months afterwards. This caused some people to be further sucked into the downward spiral of depression. Yes, 9/11 was significant, tragic, terrible and about a thousand other things. Eventually, however, there is a time to move on. I can understand if this were a monumental anniversary - the year after, month after, 10 years after, but 6 years? This is a ceremony that occurs every year. It is not tainting the memories of the lives of those who wrongfully died in the tragic events of 9/11 by not airing the event. People will still go. We will always remember.. but as a society, we have to decide when it's time to move on.
-Kami Mattioli

Danny said...

The attack on 9/11 was the single most tragic and devastating event in most of our lives. Being from New York, I have the misfortune of personally knowing many families who lost loved ones on this horrific day. It is absolutely ludicrous that in order for WABC to show the ceremony in its entirety the viewers would have to complain. Let’s be serious, I think we can all go a day without Regis and Kelly, and take the time to recognize those who lost their lives on 9/11. It will only be 6 years since the attack on 9/11, and it is by no means the media’s responsibility to tell people who lost family and friends its time to move on.

Anonymous said...

It's going to be on every nightly news station, locally and nationally, not to mention on other channels. It's not like it's not going to be shown. I'm not saying it's the media's job to TELL us when to move on, but they should let us. If the ceremony is on every channel, it's pretty hard not to dwell on it.
-Kami Mattioli

Anonymous said...

Melissa P.
Yes 9/11 was a horrible event in the United States, however I think it's time to move on. There may be individuals that would love to see/read/hear the entire ceremony. But, Mass media will be covering this story every where. From Newpapers, magazine articles, tv, radio, internet, and even by hearing someone walk down the street saying "Oh my gosh it's 9/11."lol In all, I don't think they should air the entire ceremony.

Anonymous said...

If I were the director of this television station I would have changed my mind of the decision to not air the 9/11 ceremony. September 11th was a big event and even though it has past we still have soldiers fighting overseas for us.
-Esther Akintoye

Janna Manjelievskaia said...

It is such a tough decision that I honestly do not know the right answer. A part of me says it's wrong to move on and forget about it, but who's to say when we should stop airing the broadcast? When there is no one left who has been affected by this tragedy? I understand the reasoning behind the decision not to air the entire thing, but the director should have stuck with his decision instead of caving in.

Matthew Breen said...

I dont think the ceremony is necessary to carry on TV any longer. Every April 19th in Oklahoma City, there is a rememberance ceremony for the victims of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It's been 12 years now and I'm almost 100 percent certain that the ceremnony is not televised in its entirety. If we continue to air the 9/11 ceremony, it will contuinue to grow harder to be able to pull it off the air. I applaud the news director for the having the guts to take control of his station, but I wish he would've stuck with it. The people that were such in arms with the descion, should've made the trek to the southern tip of Manhattan to be present at the ceremony. Then, they would have been showing respect, instead of sitting in front of a TV screen.

Also, on a business side airing, Live! With Regis and Kelly and the other two shows is a far more lucrative desicion than airing the 9/11 ceremony. The station will pull in advertisers when they air those shows, which is what drives this business, right?

Melodie Carter said...

I think for ABC network to initially make the decision to not show the full 9/11 ceremony is ignorant and disresectful to the families that lost their loved ones on that day. While the event may be a bit boring it aknowledges a historcal event that took the lives of many innocent people. Now I think Live with Regis and Kelly can go on with one day of being off the air, i mean hey as viewers we suffered through those summer re-runs so it shouln't come as much as a channel scock.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for the heroic journalistic high road of Walter Cronkite and Edgar Murrow! Editors walk the tightrope between business and pure news every moment of every day. Due to competitive pressures and the high opportunity cost of media time, sometimes the business side wins out. Sadly, the demise of print media means that instead of moving an item to Page 3, TV has to juggle real time events (vs. scheduled reporting) and weigh the public benefits against income objectives. No one wants to advertise during a downer like Remembering 9/11 during morning TV, but will pay more for spots during the news. Media does not operate in a pure environment!

davonne said...

if the ceremony did not include the readings of all the names of the victims from 9/11 then i could see showing a portion of the broadcast live and then the rest online. however it does include them so they, the victims, should have the right be honored nationally.
i think the director did the right thing, but i also feel that eventually American will need to live life for those who died; evey year during the anniversary of pearl harbor there isnt a big "to do" about the victims on air. eventually 9/11 will be this way, but when the event is still fresh and victims names are still being released for the first time they should be given their chance for memorial in its entirty.

Jessica Grimm said...

So ABC ended up not showing any of the ceremony. They stuck to their original plan, and left the 9-11 memorial stuff to the 24 hour news station, which is how it should be.

Brianna said...

The 9/11 ceremony should be shown in it's full length out of respect for those who died and their famalies. Because 9/11 was a tremendous event in America and it brought sorrow, fear, as well as a sense of togetherness to our nation, those who lost their lives regardless of the reaon should be honored and respected no matter, where it is shown, and how long it takes, it should be done.

Anonymous said...

I think that they have an obligation to show the ceremony in full. Its something that as Americans we should never forget. I think that it was a way for the station to say it's time for Americans to move one but quite frankly I think many of us have moved on. Moving on and showing a ceremony one day out of the year to remember the thousands of people that lost their lives have nothing to do with one another. Its a sensitive subject for a lot of people and speaking for myself, I turned on the TV and watched the ceremony from start to finish because I think its good to remember the heroes who sacrificed their lives for others. Showing the whole ceremony is something that should bring us together; not tear us apart.

Mike Mastrangelo

Chelsea Coia said...

I think that by showing the ceremony in full, it is only giving the terrorists a sick pleasure of satisfaction that they truly accomplished their mission and that America is still crying over their attack. Yes, they did kill a lot of innocent people and impact the lives of so many Americans, but we have grown stronger from this attack and we do not need to keep replaying this. I think that it is necessary we have some type of recognition for the people who died from the 9/11 attack, but it I don't think that people should be mad for a second that the whole ceremony wasn't showed. If people feel that strongly about going back in time and watching the whole whole tragic attack happen again, they can simply go on to the internet and watch it. It is not difficult for someone to find out about the attack from another source besides the T.V. I am sure that the sad families that lost their loved ones from this attack are already coming together and remember this day vividly, they don't need it to be broadcasted on television in order to feel better.

Paul Gruensfelder said...

I think it should be up to the major network stations to have AT LEAST 1 covering the full event, every year from now on. It's been 6 years, and while it is still a disaster of national importance, not every channel airs the names of people who died at Pearl Habor, or the names of the people who died (like on Yom Hashoah). While I believe every channel should air the beginning, it is impractical that life should be interupted to dwell on one of the lowest points in Americans history.

We all had 9/11 on our minds today, and those who wanted to watch the readings found an outlet to watch them. And while I'm sure as time goes on, those outlets will decrease, I find it unneccasary to air the ceremony in full on every network station from New York.

Emily W said...

The viewers had every right to demand the station show the entire ceremony. The journalists' (in this case the news station's) first obligation is to the public which it serves.
America must move on but it must never forget, and for that reason i do not think there is any immediate need for the hub-bub surrounding the annual ceremonies to die down. The original decision may have been a "straight-foward" business decision but i think, particularly at this point in time (with it only being the 6th anniversary) it is inappropriate and insensitive to make such a business decision. In making a "business decision" to air only a portion of the ceremonies they are essentially putting a price on the lives of the people lost...it's like saying that the station's income is more important than remembering/honoring those who died. The bottom line is that it is unethical.
What's more, cutting off a portion of the ceremony would inevitably lead to some of the names not being read on-air. This is disrespectful to those whose names would not be read because it makes them look/seem less significant than those whose names were read. All of those people died the same way, on behalf of our country, and no one deserves more recognition than another. Abbreviating coverage of the ceremony is effectually devaluing the lives of those who died.

Anonymous said...

Good think it didn't disrupt a sporting event or the MTV Awards (it was ONLY Regis and Kathy Lee)! It was bad enough when thy moved the first Republican Debate to 1:00 a.m. for golf! What are we going to do when 9/11 falls on a Saturday?! At least print media can move things around without spoiling the real time impact and give things more dignity as they deserve! (sorry couldn't help myself)

Anonymous said...

The viewers had the right to demand the entire ceremony with 2,749 victims their are alot of grieving people who probably knew someone who died that day. One day a year for a few hours we have a memorial service is at least appropriate if not their should be more. The event is still sitting in every ones minds we went to war basically over what happened just on that day (A war mind you we are still in). I didn't watch it nor did I want to watch it, but as an American I still think it should be broadcasted( is that the right way to say it? broadcasted?).
Clearly a straightforward business decision I'd love to hear any other motivations that might have had. I think after a decade maybe fifteen years they don't have to show the reading of the names anymore if the networks really don't want to, but the ceremony should still be showed. It would be nice. They weren't really saying America should move on they were just thinking in terms of money, and how they could make more of it, no harm no foul.
-eD flanagaN

Anonymous said...

The viewers had the right to demand the entire ceremony with 2,749 victims their are alot of grieving people who probably knew someone who died that day. One day a year for a few hours we have a memorial service is at least appropriate if not their should be more. The event is still sitting in every ones minds we went to war basically over what happened just on that day (A war mind you we are still in). I didn't watch it nor did I want to watch it, but as an American I still think it should be broadcasted( is that the right way to say it? broadcasted?).
Clearly a straightforward business decision I'd love to hear any other motivations that might have had. I think after a decade maybe fifteen years they don't have to show the reading of the names anymore if the networks really don't want to, but the ceremony should still be showed. It would be nice. They weren't really saying America should move on they were just thinking in terms of money, and how they could make more of it, no harm no foul.
-eD flanagaN

Anonymous said...

I think that it is soon going to be time to accept the fact that these victims are never coming back. Why didn't they do this for the victims of Hurricane Katrina? I am from New York City and lived there my whole life and I saw the smoke from the towers collapsing. I also went to New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild and it still looks like a mess over there. It looked like the hurricane just hit yesterday! Because New York City is a major market city and the greatest city in the country doesn't mean that these victims should get any more attention than the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It's rediculous and it needs to stop now. There should not be any ceremony of that kind next year!
Andrew Lecointe

Zilli said...

Good for people to know.