MSNBC’s Annual Replay of 9/11 Events in Real Time: Important Reminder or Tragedy Porn?

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Are real time rebroadcasts of 9/11 coverage necessary?

On every anniversary of 9/11 since 2006, MSNBC replays that day’s horrific events in real time.

Starting at shortly before 9 a.m. Eastern Time, you hear the reports of the first plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers, with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric on the “Today Show” wondering if it was a small aircraft that had mechanical problems. Over the course of the coverage, senior newsman Tom Brokaw comes on board. As the realization of what has actually happened dawns on them, you hear the horror and shock in their voices as cameras trained on the Twin Towers allow them to witness an airliner barreling into the second tower. As the day becomes more gruesome and surreal, for the newscasters and their viewers, there is a powerful rawness in the reporting and things unfold in a way no one expected.

There was no effort to have us relive the events of 9/11 on the first few anniversaries of the attacks. The first replay came five years later in 2006 in a decision that Dan Abrams, who was then general manager of MSNBC, says he struggled with but concluded there was historical importance to airing it.

In 2006, I watched most of it, riveted to the TV set. I hadn’t known it was going to be on, but came across it in a search for some a.m. news. In that first year, I felt there was value in having at least some Americans see it as a way to honor those who died, as well as the first responders who did as much as they could to save some of the people. And it seemed important that we not let the memory fade of what terror truly is and what we, as a nation, need to be prepared for. I’m not the only wondering about this today, and some people online have different opinions about the rebroadcast:

It’s a good teaching tool for our children when they are old enough so they can have a better understanding of the events,

It’s disrespectful to those whose loved ones died, causing more trauma and triggering effects,

It’s just fear-mongering,

It’s an important tool so we don’t let the reality of terror fade from our memories

It’s a gimmick for ratings,

It’s “tragedy porn.”

And some on Twitter were also pondering the value of an annual viewing of the coverage:

As for one those who covered it live on 9/11:

So how do we find a balance between remembering and being bombarded? Do we need to separate our annual memorials from video of the physical events to keep living in a world in which we know this, or something even more tragic, could happen again? Is it important for at least one media outlet to dedicate its time to the replay when memorials to those who died in the attacks are no longer front page news and are noted with a small bit of video rather than a live broadcast of the entire service itself?

As the world watches other acts of terror around the world — murders of journalists, terrorism arrests rising, and acts that can be called nothing less than domestic terrorism on the rise — is it time to reconsider how we reflect on 9/11 on each anniversary, or do we the need the stark real-time images so we don’t become complacent?

Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. You can find her on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!

Image via iStockphoto

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