Television Media in National CrisisDocument Transcript
Television Media in National Crisis
A national crisis is an unusual period of great danger or “intolerable difficulty”
that a whole nation suffers and endures. Mass media, as part of the fabric of a society,
have to undergo a profound impact and play their irreplaceable roles in dealing with this
special period of time. This study will examine the roles American television media
played during the two national crises in history, the 1963 assassination of President John
F. Kennedy and the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, and the crisis management
strategies the television media used in these two events. This study can help us
understand the medium’s crisis management strategy and the tendency of its
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Definition of Terms……………………………………………………………………....iii
Statement of Justification.………………………………………………………….…….iv
Statement of Organization...……………………………………………………………..vii
Chapter I: Timeline of the 1963 Assassination of President John F. Kennedy..………….1
Chapter II: Technologies of Television Medium in 1963
The Coming of “the First Television Society”…….………………………….9
Chapter III: Television Media and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
The First Television Coverage of National Crisis…………………………...19
Chapter IV: Timeline of the 2001 September 11 Terrorist Attacks……………………...36
Chapter V: Technologies of Television Medium in 2001
The Arrival of “the Instantaneous Communications”...…………….…….....45
Chapter VI: Television Media and the September 11 Terrorist Attacks
The Television Coverage of the First National Crisis in the 21st Century.......52
Chapter VII: American Television Media in the National Crises:
An Analysis of the Television Media’s Roles……………………...................77
Chapter VIII: Conclusions…………………………………………………….................90
I express my gratitude to Mr. Thomas J. Notton, Dr. Albert M. Katz and
Mr. Brent L. Notbohm for their time and constructive insights throughout this research
I would like to thank Dr. Martha J. Einerson, Dr. Cynthia R. Graham,
Mr. Michael D. Simonson and Mr. Todd S. Kneeland for teaching me many qualities
that will help me professionally.
I would like to dedicate this thesis to my parents, Mr. Zhang Guo Yong and
Mrs. Zhou Liang Ying, for their love and support. They have given me a perfect family.
A special thanks goes to Mr. John H. Hagfeldt and Ms. Evelyn M. Hagfeldt for
their support and great friendship.
I would also like to thank Ms. Cherie A. Sawinski, Mr. Steven A. Houghton and
Ms. Melinda Yingling, for the kind help.
I am grateful to the staff at the Jim Dan Hill Library of the University of
Wisconsin-Superior for the assistance made the completion of this paper.
In Memory of Dr. William H. Stock
This study will examine the roles American television media played during the
two national crises in history, the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and
the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, and the crisis management strategies the
television media used in these two events.
Definition of Terms:
Terrorism: For the purpose of this study, terrorism means a “symbolic act
designed to influence political behavior by extranormal means, entailing the use of threat
or violence;” “it is a form of psychological warfare whose prime purpose is to
propagandize and disorient a target population by attacking certain symbols of the state
and the society.”
Propaganda: For the purpose of this study, propaganda means the “deliberate
and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior
to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”
Public Information: For the purpose of this study, public information means any
message, material or knowledge of fact disseminated from an organization or institution
to the public without any deliberate and systematic attempt to manipulate the public
Thornton, T.P. (1964). Terror as a Weapon of Political Agitation. In Eckstein, H., etc., Internal War. NY:
Free Press. P73.
Kelly, M.J., & Mitchell, T.H. (1981). Transnational Terrorism and the Western Elite Press. Political
Communication and Persuasion. NY: Crane, Russak & Company, Inc..P269296.
Jowett, G.S., & O’Donnell, V. (1992). Propaganda and Persuasion (2 Ed.). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE
ABC: American Broadcasting Company
CBS: Columbia Broadcasting System
NBC: National Broadcasting Company
CNN: Cable News Network
FCC: Federal Communications Commission
PBS: Public Broadcasting Service
Statement of Justification:
A national crisis is an unusual period of great danger or “intolerable difficulty”
that a whole nation suffers and endures. In a time of national crisis, every social element
is subjected to a severe test. As to the field of communication, the rate of information
flow is enormously increased. Immediacy and pervasiveness become two striking
qualities of this information flow during the time of national crisis. An unstable and
unbalanced state can arise at the same time.
Mass media, as part of the fabric of a society, undoubtedly, also have to undergo a
profound impact and play their irreplaceable roles in dealing with this special period of
time. There has been a great deal of study of the content of mass media in a variety of
contexts, but still relatively little study of what role(s) mass media, especially television
media, play in a time of national crisis. However, the meaning of studying television
medium in the context of national crisis is significant. First, during this kind of special
James, R.K., & Gilliland, B.E. (2001). Crisis Intervention Strategies (4 Ed.). CA: Wadsworth/Thomson
Learning, Inc. P3
event, television medium employs the then most advanced media technologies (socalled
hardware), which can give us an insight into how the technologies help media exercise
their roles. Second, television medium constitutes an irreplaceable component in a
society. Through studying television medium’s roles under the circumstance of national
crisis can help us understand the medium’s crisis management strategy and the tendency
of its development.
Two national crises are chosen for the purpose of this study. One is the 1963
assassination of President John F. Kennedy; the other is the 2001 September 11 terrorist
attacks. Like society’s response to crisis, generally, mass media’s response to crisis may
have the following five stages. These are: first, the predisaster period; second, the period
of detection and communication of a specific threat; third, the period of immediate,
relatively unorganized response; fourth, the period of organized response; and fifth, the
postdisaster period. In some cases, not all five of these stages may appear when mass
media respond to a crisis. In this study, the events of the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s
assassination and the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks may not have all the five stages
due to their characteristics of unusual suddenness and unpredictability. For instance, in
these two events, there was no apparent warning of any kind that caught attentions of the
public and there was no time people could prepare, physically or psychologically, to meet
the threats. Therefore, in my study, I will explore the issues within the stages of the
period of immediately, relatively unorganized response and the period of organized
response, or (and) the postdisaster period.
Greenberg, B.S.& Parker, E.B. (1965). The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social
Communication in Crisis. CA: Stanford University Press. P6.
There are many differences between the event of the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s
assassination and the event of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks. One of the
differences is the casualty. The assassination of the American President John F. Kennedy
is more that of psychological and political 6 , while the September 11 terrorist attacks are
more that of physical, psychological and political because of the greater scale of the
However, the natures of the two crises are the same. They are both terrorist
attacks on the symbols of the nation though, in 1963, there were no such clear definitions
of “terrorism” or “terrorist” as the ones we use today to refer to the extreme violence of
this kind. In these two events, one is the President of the United States, which is a
political symbol of the nation; the other is the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
which are two of economic and political or military symbols of the nation. The two
events are both “unprecedented” in terms of their significance in their perspective era of
mass media. Although John F. Kennedy is neither the first nor the only American
president in history who was assassinated, he is, indeed, the first American President
whose tragedy was covered by television media. In other words, television as a medium,
for the first time in its history, covered a national crisis on such a high level as never
before. Again, in 2001, the television media covered a largestscale national crisis, the
September 11 terrorist attacks, for the first time in history.
The study of the media’s behavior in times of national crisis, specifically, the
television media’s roles in these two events, is still a new area in the field of mass
Greenberg, B.S.,& Parker, E.B. P7.
communication. One of the reasons probably is that the recent September 11 terrorist
attacks are so “unprecedented” from many aspects, either in terms of the scale of the
crisis itself or in terms of its many impacts on the society as well as the media; the other
possible reason could be the factor of time, that is, the September 11 terrorist attacks just
happened less than two years ago (from the time when this research began) and we are
still in an era of fighting against terrorism, the tragedy of September 11 is still too close
for us to fully understand everything, including the mass media’s behaviors on that day.
This research, hopefully, could be among the earliest efforts to explore and comprehend
the roles of mass media, especially television medium, during such special period of time.
Statement of Organization:
To analyze the behaviors of the media, for example, the news report, one of the
most important things for most researchers to do is to examine the context(s) in which the
specific phenomenon arises. This is also the first step this historical study takes. The
study of the 1963 President John F. Kennedy’s assassination will focus on the period
from November 22, 1963 to November 25, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was buried. This
study of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks will focus on the period from September
11, 2001 to the middle of October, 2001, shortly after America’s war on terrorism started
in Afghanistan. Contemporary records of these two events as well as those of different
media technologies used in these two periods, which are in form of government archives,
public reports and other relevant materials, will be collected and verified. Having
gathered background factors, I will analyze and interpret the news coverage and
behaviors of the television media during these two periods. The technique of content
analysis will also be used to help examine these data. Hopefully, similarities and
differences of the roles and crisis management strategies of the television media in two
events could to be found.
This study will only focus on the television medium. Other media, such as print,
radio, recording, film or Internet will not be the focus of this study. Many critics argue
that Internet, in today’s global information village, has grown rapidly and is widely
considered as a big challenger to the traditional television medium; however, the
television’s leading status has not changed yet and is still the most important and most
Two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Princeton Survey Research
Associates conducted a nationwide survey for the purpose of finding out where the public
had gotten most of their information about the tragic event of September 11.
The results of the survey are as follows:
Talking with others 2%
Retrieved from: LexisNexis Academic Database. Public Opinion Online, A survey of the Pew Internet &
American Life Project. The report was done in coordination with the Pew Research Center for the People &
the Press, September 15, 2001.
Don’t Know/Refused 1%
By the time when John F. Kennedy’s assassination happened, ABC, CBS and
NBC were the only three major television networks in America. Therefore, my study on
this event will focus on these three commercial networks. Nowadays, there are more
television networks than four decades ago, such as FOX NEWS, CNN and PBS besides
the above three major broadcast networks. In order to limit the scope of the topic to a
manageable study, in the study of the television coverage of the 2001 September 11
terrorist attacks, the three biggest broadcast networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, and the
biggest cable television network, CNN, will be mainly focused because of their
extraordinary importance in the public life of the United States.
Timeline of the 1963 Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
(American Central Standard Time)
Friday, November 22, 1963
11:40 a.m.: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, together with Mrs. Kennedy and their
party, arrived at Love Field, Dallas, Texas for a fiveday trip. This trip was
primarily for a political reason—to help heal a rift in his party there and to
hold the state for the Democrats in 1964. 8
11:50 a.m.: The motorcade left Love Field, Texas. President John F. Kennedy sat in an
open limousine without shield. To the left of the President in the rear seat was
Mrs Kennedy. In the jump seats were: Governor Connally, who was in front
of the President, and Mrs. Connally, who was at the Governor’s left. An agent
was driving the limousine and another agent was sitting to his right. Directly
behind the Presidential limousine was an open “followup” car with eight
secret service agents. Behind the “followup” car was the VicePresidential
car carrying the Vice President and his wife. The press representatives were at
the end of the motorcade. The motorcade was to follow a circuitous eleven
mile route through downtown Dallas to the Trade Mart where the President
Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of the President Kennedy.
(1964). U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. P2.
John F. Kennedy would give a luncheon speech. 9
12:30 p.m.: President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was shot by
an assassin while the his car passed the building of the Texas School Book
12:34 p.m.: The Dallas police radio mentioned the building of Texas School Book
Depository as a possible source of the shots. First UPI flashed about the
12:36 p.m.: When President John F. Kennedy was sent to Parkland Hospital, ABC broke
into local programs with the first announcement of the shooting.
12:40 p.m.: CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite announced: “In Dallas, Texas, three shots
were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. The first reports say President
Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting”.
12:45 p.m.: The police radio broadcast a description of the suspected assassin based
primarily on one eyewitness, Howard L. Brennan’s observations. NBC reacted
and announced the shooting.
(Approximately) 1:00 p.m.: The doctors of Parkland hospital announced that President
Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of the President Kennedy.
(1964). U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. P2.
John F. Kennedy died in the emergency operation room, and the Last Rites were
administered by a priest.
1:05 p.m.: Robert F. Kennedy learned his brother was dead.
1:15 p.m.: Lee Harvey shot and killed Dallas policeman, J.D. Tippit.
1:33 p.m.: The President’s plane, Air Force One, carrying John F. Kennedy’s
body, with Mrs. Kennedy, the newly inaugurated President, Lyndon B.
Johnson and Mrs. Johnson abroad, departed Texas back to Washington.
1:36 p.m.: Mr. Malcolm Kilduff, the assistant White House press secretary, announced
the President’s death to the public.
1:38 p.m.: Cronkite of CBS delivered the news of the President’s death.
1:50 p.m.: Lee Harvey Oswald was seized after a scuffle in the Texas Theater.
2:00 p.m.: The body of President John F. Kennedy was taken from the hospital in a
bronze coffin, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy walked beside it.
(Approximately) 2:00 p.m.: Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24yearold warehouse worker, was
arrested as the suspected killer of a policeman on the street in the Oak Cliff
district, 3 miles away from where the President John F. Kennedy was shot.
2:38 p.m.: Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36 President of the United States
by Federal District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes.
3:00 p.m.: News of John F. Kennedy’s death brought official mourning at United Nations
when the General Assembly met.
3:15 p.m.: Television networks broadcasted Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest.
5:20 p.m.: The Federal Reserve Bank at New York issued a statement declaring there was
agreement “that there is no need for special action in the financial markets.”
to prevent panic when the markets reopened.
5:58 p.m. (EST): Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington D.C.
6:14 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time): Lyndon B. Johnson’s first statement as President was
showed on television.
7:10 p.m.: Lee Harvey Osward was formally advised that he had been charged with the
murder of Patrolman J.D.Tipit.
NBC concluded its broadcasting day with a symphonic tribute from the NBC Studio
Saturday, November 23, 1963
1:40 a.m.: Chief of Police Jesse Curry announced that Oswald had been formally
arraigned on a charge of murder in the President’s death.
4:34 a.m. (EST): President Kennedy’s coffin entered the White House.
10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.: Mr. Kennedy’s body lied in the East Room of the White House,
during which time Government and diplomatic officials paid their respects.
4:51 p.m. (EST): Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed mourning on television.
Former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower spoke for the cameras, offering condolences
to the Kennedy family and expressions of faith in democratic institutions.
Instant documentary tributes to the late president appeared on all three networks. More
information trickled in about Oswald, the accused assassin, whom the Dallas police
paraded through the halls of the City jail.
Doherty, T.(1997). Assassination and Funeral of President John F. Kennedy, In Horace Newcomb.
Museum of Broadcast Communications: Encyclopedia of Television (Vol.2). Chicago and London: Fitzroy
In the evening, CBS presented a memorial concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra with
Eugene Normandy conducting.
Saturday night: The news media were informed that the transfer of Oswald would not
take place until after 10a.m. on Sunday.
Sunday, November 24, 1963
Morning: Television, radio and newspaper representatives crowded into the basement of
the city jail to record the transfer.
12:21 p.m. (EST): Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald when Oswald was being transferred
in the basement of the city jail. NBC elected to switch over from coverage of
the preparations in Washington, D.C. to the transfer of the prisoner in Dallas.
Only NBC carried the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald live. “He’s been shot!
He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot,” shouted NBC correspondent Tom
Petit, “there is absolute panic. Pandemonium has broken out.” Within minutes,
CBS broadcast its own live feed from Dallas.
1:07 p.m.: Oswald was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.
1:25 p.m.: NBC announced Oswald was dead. The rest of the day all three networks
replayed the scene again and again.
8:00 p.m. (EST): ABC telecasts A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts, a somber
variety show featuring classical music and dramatic readings from the bible
Monday, November 25, 1963
A National Day of Mourning—bore witness to an extraordinary politicalreligious
spectacle: the ceremonial transfer of the president’s coffin by wagon from the Capitol
rotunda to St. Matthews Cathedral, where the funeral mass was to be celebrated by
Richard Cardinal Cushing, and across the Potomac River for burial at Arlington National
7:00 a.m. (EST): television coverage began with scenes from Washington D.C., where
all evening mourners had been filing past the coffin in the Capitol rotunda.
10:38 a.m. (EST): the coffin was placed on the wagon for the procession to St. Matthews
Tuesday, November 26, 1963
Following the national day of mourning, the nation resumed its business. Jack Ruby, who
killed Oswald, was transferred to the county jail without notice to the press or to the
police officers who were not directly involvement in the transfer. He was later found
Technologies of Television Medium in 1963
The Coming of “the First Television Society”
By the end of 1963, the technologies of media, especially those of television
medium, had experienced a tremendous development and brought great impacts to the
society. For instance, the invention and use of videotape began to end the era of the
primitive kinescope technology and enabled, for the first time in media’s history, a filmed
event to be immediately recorded and played back; Microwave relay and coaxial cable
were more widely used to connect the growing ultrahigh frequency (UHF) and very high
frequency (VHF) television stations nationwide; The success of television via
communications satellites brought a new meaning to the mass media. These technical
achievements of broadcast journalism not only accelerated the pervasiveness of television
sets among American homes but also greatly increased the rate of dissemination of
information. An annual summary issued by the United States Information Agency,
headed by Edward R. Murrow, pointed out that the United States had more television sets
than any other country in the world and estimated that more than 56,000,000 television
sets were in use in 1963. Another study found that more than 90 percent of U.S.
households in 1960 had television sets. For the first time in history, television medium
Hiebert, R. E. (1979).Mass Media: An Introduction to Modern Communication. NY: Longman Inc.
started to challenge the status of the print in being the most powerful information source
in the United States.
For the purpose of increasing the number of information outlets and to encourage
the diversity in the media industry, in July 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed into
law legislation that required all television receiving sets shipped across state lines be able
to receive all UHF (channels 14 through 83) as well as VHF (channels 2 through 13)
frequencies. The goal of this law was to put UHF channels on a more equal technological
footing with the VHF channels. In fact, back in 1954, more than one hundred UHF
stations were already in operation in the United States. However, most television sets
made in or imported into the United States before 1962 were equipped to receive the
VHF channels only. Due to the lack of audiences and the short of advertising income,
those UHF stations were in a very difficult situation while competing with the VHF
stations. Before 1962, even those television viewers who were interested in watching
UHF had to install a tuning system called UHF converters in order to receive these
stations. These cumbersome converters, which resembled metal bow ties and sat atop
the receiver, did not allow viewers to easily “click in” the desired channel. With the
commercial networks occupying the VHF channels, the UHF channels (primarily
independent commercial and educational or noncommercial stations) were in danger of
extinction. Apparently, the immediate goal, then, of the allchannel legislation was the
preservation of these channels. The longerterm goal was the encouragement of diversity
Hudson, R.V.(1987).Mass Media: A Chronological Encyclopedia of Television, Radio, Motion Pictures,
Magazines, Newspapers, and Books in the United States. NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Lurzberg, M; Osterheld, W.,&Voegtlin, E. (1956).Essentials of Television, NY: McGraw Hill Book Co.,
(or the creation of “a multitude of tongues”) which was a guiding force behind much
FCC rulemaking at the time.
On September 12, 1962, the Federal Communications Commission set up a
deadline for implementing the allchannel legislation. It stressed that any television set
manufactured in or imported into the U.S. after April 30, 1964 be allchannel equipped.
The proposal became an official FCC order on November 21, 1962. Later amendments to
FCC rules and regulations specified performance standards for the UHF circuit in the
new receivers relating to sound and pictures quality. In January 1963, the American
Congress further mandated that all television set must be manufactured to receive UHF
and VHF stations. Noncommercial television stations and public television stations saw
this move as being crucial to their existence.
In the process of building a nationwide network of communications, the
technologies of both terrestrial microwave relay and coaxial cable were also widely used
since the early 1950s. Coaxial cable, which is used in most cable systems for long
distance communication, consists of an inner metal conductor shielded by plastic foam.
The foam is then covered with another metal conductor, and that in turn is covered by
plastic sheathing. This protected cable may either be strung on utility poles or buried
underground to connect television stations. Comparing to wire cable, the coaxial cable
Massey, K. B. (1997). “All Channel Legislation,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of
Television, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Retrieved September 20 , 2002 from www.pbs.org.
can carry much larger numbers of channels without losing the quality of the signal.
Besides the utilization of coaxial cable, microwave technology was also used within the
broadcast industry because not all television broadcast transmissions used standard
television frequencies at that time. At higher frequencies, microwave transmission can be
used. Microwaves are very short electromagnetic waves. The higher the frequency, the
farther the electromagnetic waves will travel in a direct lineofsight path between
transmitter and receiver.
By the early 1950s, major American cities were linked together by either coaxial
cable or microwave. Since video signals could be transmitted crosscountry or from coast
to coast via “hard wire” coaxial cable or microwave relay, major broadcast networks
could deliver their programming to their affiliates across the nation. Microwave mobile
units (vans with microwave transmitters attached) had been used in television news
reporting since the late 1950s. The value of microwave mobile units lies on their mobility
and the ability of quick responding to emergency events or some other breaking news.
Before the arrival of satellite communication, coaxial cable and terrestrial
microwave played an important role in conveying information to every corner of the
country, in other words, they united the nation by being the nation’s electronic nerves.
Akwule, R. (1992).Global Telecommunications: The Technology, Administrations and Policies, Boston:
Focal Press. P33.
Mullen, M. (1997). “Microwave,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television,
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Black, J & Whitney, F.C. (1988). Introduction to Mass Communication (2 ed.). Iowa: Wm.C.Brown
While the terrestrial microwave and coaxial technology was deemed a means of
dissemination of domestic information, in the early 1960s, the communications satellite
arose to become the disseminator of international information. Launched from the Cape
Canaveral at 4:35 a.m., July 10, 1962, Telstar 1 was successfully in orbit at 4:46a.m..
Later that day, at 7:28 p.m., the first phone call was relayed through an active satellite in
space. Chairman of the Board of American Telephone and Telegraph, Frederick R.
Kappel, in Andover talked with Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Washington via the
satellite. Vice President Johnson said: “You’re coming in nicely.” A few minutes later,
the first transatlantic television broadcast between American and Europe marked the
coming of a new era in communications. Successive initiatives including communication
satellite Relay 1 and Telstar 2 were launched in December 1962 and May 1963
respectively. Telstar 1 became obsolete and was turned off on February 21, 1963. These
satellites illustrated the potential capability of a future worldwide satellite system to
provide communication between continents.
It is worthwhile to mention a historic breakthrough made on the first two Telstar
and Relay satellites. Unlike other successive geosynchronous satellites, the first two
communications satellites were randomorbit satellites. Each day, during four to five of
its nine orbits, Telstar became “visible” for only brief periods of time. A control center
was built to find it precisely, to help give it commands, to point the giant horn antenna at
it, and finally to send out across the country the phone calls, television, or data relayed
Solomon, L.(1963). TELSTAR: Communication BreakThrough By Satellite. NY: McGrawHill Book.
from Telstar to the horn. Although these early satellites were not able to relay
information continuously, they paved a road to more advanced geosynchronous satellites
which appeared later. Noticeably, they also marked the beginning of a new period of
global communication by conveying instant information to one another. On July 23,
1962, a press conference was transmitted internationally for the first time by the Telstar
satellite. In talking about the role of the satellite, President John F. Kennedy perceived
communication through satellite as an instrument for peace. “I understand that part of
today’s press conference is being relayed by the Telstar…” said Kennedy in his opening
remarks, “I think this understanding which will inevitably come from the speedier
communications is bound to increase the wellbeing and security of all people here and
across the oceans.” He believed that communication satellites would “serve our
(American) needs and those of other countries and contribute to world peace and
The invention of video tape recorder (VTR) brings what some call the most
dramatic change to television broadcasting in its history. Prior to the VTR, kinescope
was used in television industry to record television programs. “A kinescope is a film
made of a live television broadcast. Kinescopes are usually created by placing a motion
picture camera in front of a television monitor and recording the image off the monitor’s
screen while the program is being aired.” By using the Kinescope method, both precious
Berry, J.P.Jr. (1987). John F. Kennedy and the Media: The First Television President, University Press of
Retrieved October 20, 2002 from: http://www.umich.edu/~newzies/main/camera/images.html.
O'Dell ,C. (1997). “Kinescope,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television, Chicago:
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
time and picture quality could be lost, and the poor picture quality it caused also
prohibited any extensive reuse of the films. In 1956, Ampex, an electronics firm in
California, first introduced the VR1000 videotape recorder for professional
broadcasting. Since then, television programs were no longer unstable and ephemeral
events and could be repeatedly broadcast without losing picture quality. The television
industry responded so enthusiastically that Ampex could not produce machines fast
enough. It was the true beginning of the video age. West Coast television stations could,
without sacrificing picture quality, delay live East Coast news and entertainment
broadcasts for three hours until evening prime time, when most viewers reached their
homes from work. Meanwhile, Videotape had wide impact everywhere on earth,
including remote villages, where inexpensive tapes brought information and
In 1963, during the concentrated four day television coverage of President
Kennedy’s assassination, almost all of these contemporarily best media technologies
were used. People in the nation and around the world experienced not just a piece of
heartbreaking news, but vivid images of pain and horror. On November 25, 1963, a
national day of mourning, a new chapter was also being written into the media’s history.
By then, the television coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination became the
“most intensive coverage of an event in terms of distance and time in the medium’s
Fang, I. (1997). “Videotape,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television, Chicago:
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
history.” Three major networks, NBC, ABC and CBS, used approximately a total of 119
cameras to cover the event of the President’s funeral. Most of those cameras were
deployed in different locations from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery. Then,
the shots caught by the cameras were sent to a control unit in the Capital, from where the
networks broadcast the live and recorded news coverage to the viewers.
In New York, NBC had the responsibility for transmitting the funeral services on
the communications satellite. Through Relay communications satellite, the President
Kennedy’s funeral rites were broadcast live to 23 countries (an estimated combined
population of more than 600 million), the largest number ever to be assembled for a live
program. In Britain and Soviet Union, the scheduled programs were suspended on a day
of America’s national mourning; audiences saw part of the funeral procession in live
transmission from Washington D.C. by the communications satellite Telstar. Reuters,
the news Agency, said it was believed to be the first time Soviet television officials had
presented to the public a program that was transmitted from the United States by a
satellite. In Japan, it should have been a happy day for Japanese television audiences
because the first live American television transmission cross the pacific by means of the
communications satellite was successfully received. Instead of hearing a greeting
Shepard, R.F, Television Pools Camera Coverage: Measures Set a Record for Distance and Duration, The
New York Times, November 26, 1963. P11.
Shepard, R.F, P11.
Shepard, R.F, P12.
Shepard, R.F, P12.
The New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963.
Adams, V., TV will Continue A Sober Approach, The New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963,
message from President Kennedy via Relay 1, the communications satellite, Japanese
people received the tragic news of the death of the American President.
After the tragedy, satellite technologies also provided an opportunity for
Americans to see the feelings of people in other nations. The images of world leaders and
people expressing sympathy and condolence at American Embassies were beamed to the
United States by Relay and Telstar satellites. 39
Videotapes of the programs on the President Kennedy’s assassination and his
funeral were sent to many countries to fulfill their need for more information and also to
some countries who had difficulties in receiving satellite transmission. ABC, CBS, NBC
and UPI Newsfilm sent countless hours of films covering all aspects of the President’s
assassination via jet transports to countries on all continents, for example, CBS films said
it had more than 150 people on both the East and West Coasts involved in roundthe
clock operations to get processed films on their way as soon as possible. At one point it
held a Londonbound plane for an hour at New York’s Idlewild airport so that films of
the arrival at Washington of President Johnson and the Casket containing President
Kennedy’s body would reach Europe in time for airing on Saturday. ABC said Soviet
television had purchased a onehour filmed news program from them on the Friday
events. The program was sent by plane to Moscow on Saturday, November 23, 1963.
The New York Times, November 24, 1963, P14.
Mayo, J.B. Jr., A.B. (1966). Thesis: Network Television Coverage of the Assassination of President
Kennedy and the Succession of President Johnson, the University of Texas. P59.
Broadcast and Cable, December 2, 1963, P56P58.
Adams, V.(1963). P9.
Meanwhile, the technologies of microwave relay and coaxial cable were used to
feed the coverage throughout Canada and Latin America. For example, after President
Kennedy’s assassination, ABC international affiliates in Mexico and the local network
made an immediate arrangement to feed the live coverage through cable into Mexico City
from an ABC affiliate in Laredo.
Millions of people all over the world viewed these tragic scenes on television. For
the first time, viewing at the same stories, people around the globe paused together to
honor the past President of the United States. Even Panama Canal suspended
operations. In a time of national crisis, a wide support and unity among the people is a
key to overcome the difficulty. With the help of the technologies of television medium,
informing and uniting people in the nation and even across the globe in such a very short
period of time—almost instantaneously, become possible. The technologies of television
medium in 1963 helped the realization of “the first television society,” in addition, it also
pointed out the direction of the future development of television media technology from
then on, that is, the technology of the instantaneous communication.
Grosvenor, M.B. (March, 1964) “The Last Full Measure,” National Geographic, Vol.125, No.3, P126.
Television Media and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
The First Television Coverage of National Crisis
November 22 , 1963 might have been what Walter Cronkite, CBS news anchor,
called, “a day like all days.” However, later, several horrible gunshots changed the day,
changed the history and also changed the mass media forever. American President John
F. Kennedy was assassinated on this black Friday. Suddenly, people began to realize that
the nation was in a crisis that they would have never expected in their lives. A great
nation lost its great leader and at the same time it could be in a great danger. The public
was stunned by this unfolding reality and was desperately in need of more information,
answer and help to overcome this national crisis. The moment the first shooting
happened, mass media, especially the newly developed television media, were instantly
being pushed into a test they had never prepared for.
As Air Force One touched down at Love Field in Dallas, Texas in the morning of
November 22, 1963, through televisions, many people in Dallas and across the nation
watched President John F. Kennedy, an idol of a generation, walking out of the cabin and
waving his hands to the crowd. No one at that moment could expect any awful thing
would happen later that day during this President’s short trip in Dallas. However, the
national and local television media had prepared, to some extent, to fully cover the
President’s visit. Besides the large production crews of their own, three major networks,
ABC, CBS and NBC had their affiliate stations in Dallas and Fort Worth, a neighboring
city, ready to assist to cover the President’s visit. These local television stations are:
ABCTV affiliate WFAATV (Fort Worth), CBSTV affiliate KRLDTV (Dallas), and
NBCTV affiliate WBAPTV (Fort Worth). These affiliates proved to play an
irreplaceable role in covering the whole event of that day, as Wes Wise, reporter of
KRLDTV, said, “Dallas reporters portrayed Dallas (in the coverage of the tragedy of
1963) in their ways.” 45
At approximately 11:50 a.m., the Presidential motorcade left Love Field destined
for the Trade Mart where President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to have a luncheon
speech. The good weather allowed the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to
ride through Dallas in an openair limousine. Their hosts, the Governor John Connally
and his wife, rode in the jump seats in front of them. Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s
car was behind the presidential limousine. Meanwhile, all correspondents from the
national and local press were taking the two buses following the Vice President. The
three major television networks also sent their reporters. For example, Robert Clark,
Acting White House Correspondent, was from ABC; Robert MacNeil, riding in the first
bus, was a reporter from NBC; Robert Pierpoint, riding in the second bus, was from
CBS. Although so many national correspondents were in the motorcade, they were still
unable to catch the tragic moment of President Kennedy’s assassination because those
press vehicles were lined up last in the motorcade.
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Videotape), 1998, TX: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Garner, J. (2000).We Interrupt This Broadcast (2 Ed.). IL: Sourcebooks, Inc. P49.
When the motorcade passed through the streets of downtown Dallas, thousands of
excited onlookers were greeting the President. President Kennedy also stopped several
times to greet those wellwishers. These pictures were transmitted live all over the nation
to almost every turnedon television set through cable and microwave relay. Many
viewers still remembered that, nearly a month before, American ambassador to the
United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been attacked in Dallas, which was caught on
videotape by some reporters and then was showed again and again on the national
television networks. Since then, Dallas had been deemed a politically hostile territory by
many people. It seemed that the scenes of Dallas residents’ welcoming the President
would dispel the misgivings of many Americans about the political atmosphere of this
city. Americans saw Dallas as a friendly city again, at least, for the moment.
At 12:30 p.m., when this Presidential motorcade was passing by the Texas School
Book Depository, several gunshots ripped through the air and stunned everyone present.
Governor Connally was struck in the shoulder, wrist and leg. President Kennedy was hit
in the neck and back, and finally suffered a massive fatal would in the rear portion of his
head. Meanwhile, as the press vehicles stopped, the reporters ran to search for
telephones because they had no other means to get in touch with the stations, NBC’s
Robert MacNeil found one telephone in a nearby building—the Texas School Book
Depository, the same building from which the shots had been fired. This was but the first
of many reports MacNeil would phone in from Dallas. Based on what he saw, he
described the situation briefly and cautiously:
“Several shots were fired as President Kennedy’s motorcade passed through
downtown Dallas. Crowds screamed and lay down on the grass as the motorcade went
by. Police broke away and began chasing an unknown gunman across some railroad
tracks. It was not known if the shots were aimed at the President. Repeat, it is not known
if the shots were aimed at the President.” However, telephone lines were soon clogged
and did not work property because of a large number of phone calls at the same time.
Although the press missed the live picture of the attack and the news footage was
only black and white, some amateur photographers happened to catch the shootings on
color film that later enabled the public to witness the horror. However, at this very early
stage of the national crisis, without live news coverage and other reliable instant
communication methods, television media had to heavily rely on the Associate Press
(AP) for quick information. At NBC news headquarters in Burbank, California, Tom
Pettit read the AP bulletins on the air about the shooting in Dallas as they came in. All the
West Coast NBC stations, meanwhile, received this news from headquarter and began to
broadcast it. After twenty minutes, the NBC news headquarters in New York assumed the
control of the entire NBC network including the West Coast stations. Moments later, Bill
Ryan and Chet Huntley of NBCTV, joined by Frank McGee and David Brinkley,
appeared on camera and began their continuous coverage of the event. These four men
shared the anchor position on NBC throughout the four days. Grieved over the
unexpected tragedy, Pettit’s following words in his first report might reflected the
feelings of many other journalists in covering this national crisis.
Mayo, P16, MacNeil,R. from a broadcast recording contained in the RCA Victor record (#LOC1088)
“A Time to Keep: 1963.”
“… It had been an unnerving experience, because the truth of the news had been
as difficult to grasp in the reading as it must have been in the hearing. The task of
continuing expanding news coverage overrode emotion.”
On CBS, the soap opera As the World Turns was interrupted by a graphic that
read, “CBS News Bulletin” after the shootings happened. Walter Cronkite, news anchor
of CBS, announced the news with cracking voice off camera,
“In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in
downtown Dallas. The first reporters say that President Kennedy has been seriously
wounded by this shooting...”
Walter Cronkite later also described this first reporting of the President’s
assassination as if “it was a running battle between my emotions and my news sense.”
ABC was among one of the first networks that switched directly to Dallas, where
their affiliate WFAATV started reporting from the scene of the luncheon where
President Kennedy was to have an address. When the affiliate gathered the early
information and reported them to the nation, the staff in the New York office was able to
plan their next move. Camera crews and correspondents, videotape facilities and live
remote vans, writers, film editors, and news executives were ready to be dispatched to
Dallas. Correspondent Bill Lord went to Dallas from New York to support Acting ABC
White House Correspondent Robert Clark and his production crew. From New York,
ABC’s producer Roger Sharp and his crew also flew to Dallas. They all reached Dallas
by Friday night to take over ABCTV’s operations on the scene. As WFAA was helping
feed the network, their Washington bureau was also getting organized to report the
reactions of the public about the assassination.
In Dallas, local television correspondents kept providing information to the
broadcast networks. Among them was Eddie Barker, news director of local television
station, KRLD, the CBS’s Dallas affiliate. Cronkite, much later in A Reporter's Life, said
Barker's “news sources among the police and hospital personnel were invaluable.” At the
time when the assassination happened, Barker was in Trade Mart preparing to report the
President’s scheduled speech. Barker was live at the Trade Mart off camera trying to sort
through reports from Dealey Plaza when the tragic news reached him.
Barker: “…The shots apparently came from the Texas School Depository, School
Book Depository, which is a building of about eight floors in height…and yes…”
Suddenly, Eddie Barker was interrupted by a man with terrible news, that man
later was identified as a doctor working at Parkland hospital where the President was sent
to after being shot.
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B. (1965).The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social
Communication in Crisis. CA: Stanford University Press. P67.
Barker: “We have just been told by a member of the staff at the hospital the
President is dead. The doctor says the President is dead…”
Doctor: “He’d been shot in the chest.”
Barker: “Do you have any report on that?”
Doctor: “Not (yet)…”
Barker: “Thank you! Sir! This is the report of a doctor, who is on the staff
department of the Parkland hospital, who was here for the luncheon. He said the
President is dead. We do not have a confirmation on this. We only pass along words from
a man whom we would take as a good source at this time.”
While hearing Barker’s interviewing the doctor over the phone, on television
screen, television audiences saw images of the people’s reactions at the Trade Mart for
the luncheon. The people there were shocked and heartbroken. The camera especially
focused on a picture of a sad African American waiter who was wiping his eyes after
hearing such terrible news. Minutes later, audiences were informed the first official
announcement through television. The city mayor, Erick Johnson, confirmed, “It’s true
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
that our President in the motorcade had been shot.” Moments earlier, outside of
Parkland hospital, hundreds of Dallas residents and journalists were anxiously waiting for
the news about the President’s condition. Bob Huffaker of the KRLDTV described the
scene to the television viewers:
“…people are crying. Congress, senators, who love the President… a scene of
indescribable sadness and horror at the emergency entrance at the Parkland
hospital…people are wondering ‘is our President going to live?’”
Almost all the television audiences shared the same sadness and concern by
watching the pictures of other people’s reaction. The death of the President Kennedy was
officially announced by the doctors of Parkland hospital at approximately 1 p.m., Central
Standard Time. A priest administered the Last Rites. While CBS began relaying
unconfirmed reports of the President’s death about fifteen minutes before the priest made
the statement, both ABC and NBC took different steps to avoid the conclusion made by
the unofficial sources; they waited to report the death of the President until there was
official word of the death.
After getting confirmation on President’s death, people began to look for the news
on the questions of who committed this crime, how this could ever happen and how the
nation would handle this crisis. People were eager to know the context of this national
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video).
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B., P.82.
crisis as well as the crisis management of the nation, so were the television media. Not
long after shooting, the television networks began to closely follow the development of
police investigation in search for the suspect and the moves of the government officials,
especially the Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
The suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested after a struggle at the Texas City
Theater at around 1:50p.m., was later accused of killing the President and a Dallas police
officer, J.D. Tippit. CBSTV’s affiliate, KRLDTV, got the first news footage of Lee
Oswald in custody at the old city hall. By early evening, the hallway of the police
headquarter had been jammed with news cameras and reporters. Police and attorney
showed some evidence including the rifle used by Lee Oswald to the reporters. Lee
Oswald was also brought in to face the interview of the reporters. Some reporters
emotionally yelled out at Lee Oswald “Why did you kill the president?” Later, Eddie
Barker described the situation of having so many reporters at the police headquarter
“anyone who views the tape will immediately be struck by the remarkable access the
reporters had to the suspect Lee Oswald.” Policeman Glenn King claimed the reason for
letting the press meet directly with Lee Oswald was to let the case be “as open as possible
to public”, in other words, “in the eye of the public.” However, it was also this
remarkable access the journalists had that claimed the life of Lee Oswald later on that
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video).
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
While some reporters were gathering around the police headquarter, others were
reporting the swearingin of a new President. Though television screens, people around
the nation watched Lyndon Johnson making his first television statement as the new
President of the United States at a Washington’s airport. His words were short and plain,
but they were powerful because they “bound the nation together.”
“I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help…”
The pictures of Lyndon Johnson’s swearingin and his first presidential statement
on television conveyed a strong message to the public and even the rest of the world, that
is, with the emergence of a new leadership, the situation of the nation was under control
and political environment was stable. In the evening of a tragic day, television viewers
saw President Lyndon Johnson as a symbol of leadership; Jackie Kennedy, in her
bloodstained dress, as an embodiment of bravery and calm. Therefore, their frequent
appearances on television seemed more important than any statement during this early
stage of the national crisis. ABC White House Correspondent William H. Lawrence, who
had been covering the White House for more than twenty year, held: “I think that was the
whole lesson of those four days. Although we mourn the death of a President, we don’t
witness the collapse of the Constitutional system or the settingin of chaos.” 62 Mike
Pengra, a producerdirector at the educational television station in Austin, Texas, said, for
Hickey, N. (1963). Television defines the catastrophe: for four days, the young medium mesmerized
Americans and bound the nation together, Columbia Journalism Review, NovDec 2001, V40, P55.
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
the first time, mass communications demonstrated vividly the process of democracy
under which we live.
To the television media, Friday, November 22, 1963, to some extent, also meant a
day of chaos. In this day, television media did not catch up the speed of radio in
conveying the breaking news. The first piece of news about shooting was actually
announced though radio, instead of on television. At that time, television technologies
were not advanced enough to convey the breaking news as quickly as the radio did in a
sudden crisis situation and even did not catch the moment of assassination on film. After
news anchor Walter Cronkite announced the first piece of the shocking news of President
Kennedy’s assassination without any video image, CBS, ironically, cut to a commercial
However, the television media were growing up during this chaos. In the
afternoon, less than a few hours after the assassination, all television networks in the
nation took an unprecedented measure by canceling all commercials and all
entertainment programs for the news, special coverage of the assassination and the
related development. ABC, CBS and NBC unanimously said that they would keep
suspending commercials and other entertainment programs until after the Kennedy’s
funeral. In talking about the financial impact caused by suspending all the commercials,
James C. Hagerty, ABC news vice president, said: “Money was not a factor. We did what
had to be done with no thought of expense.”
“Cancel commercials, all entertainment,” Broadcasting, November 25, 1963.
Saturday was still a day of mourning. Besides reporting that Lee Harvey Oswald
was formally charged with murder of the President and providing information on the
suspect’s backgrounds, all the three major networks ran their documentary tributes to the
late President. Old tapes and speeches of President Kennedy constantly appeared on
television screens. In the evening, CBS and other television networks also presented a
memorial concert or funeral music to mourn the death of President Kennedy.
Many scholars argued that it was Sunday’s event of Oswald’s assassination that
defined the impact on the evolution of television. After experiencing the chaotic Friday,
the television media had become more mature by being quicker and more sensitive to any
media event following the Kennedy’s assassination. The three major television networks
fully prepared for any situation, such as the unexpected Lee Oswald’s assassination and
President Kennedy’s funeral. It was this kind of full preparation that made a first
televised murder and an unprecedented international coverage of the President’s funeral
into reality in the mass media’s history.
Before the transfer of Lee Oswald, a NBC producer said: “One executive had a
premonition, he made sure we were adequately covered in Dallas. He felt something
serious might happen, and we had very carefully planned that halfhour to go to Dallas at
the time Oswald was brought out. We had cameras at both jails to cover it. All details
Stark, S. D. (1997). Glued to the set: the 60 television shows and events that made us who we are today.
NY: Free Press. P148154.
were planned… the New York anchorman would switch to Dallas. Dallas said ‘give it to
me’ just as the doors opened. It was not luck, this was wellplanned coverage.”
On Sunday, when Lee Oswald was transferring from the city prison to the county
jail, the press assembled in the basement of the city jail to cover the transfer. ABC was
unable to have live television camera at the city jail and so later only obtained film
footage of the homicide. ABC had three mobile units in the local area. One of them was
at the county jail, and the other two were being used to cover a Baptist church service in
Fort Worth so that on Sunday morning viewers would not feel tired of coverage that only
showed the viewing of the President’s casket in the Rotunda and preparations for
Oswald’s transfers. The local ABC station, independently and possibly for some of the
same reasons, elected to cover a Methodist church service in Dallas. Only after the
decisions and commitments had been made did it become quite evident that this would
leave ABC with only one mobile unite to cover Oswald’s transfer. As one ABC executive
put it, “Here is a real case of crossed wires. We should have checked with them
beforehand, but nobody thought of it.” Left with one mobile unit, the network people in
Dallas and the affiliate station people had to decide how it could be deployed in the best
way. It was felt that this would be a crucial decision. Finally, ABC placed its remaining
mobile unite at the county jail and two film cameras in the city jail. At approximately
11:20 a.m., when Oswald, flanked by policemen, emerged from the basement jail. A man,
later identified as Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, leaped from the crowd of reporters, and
shot Oswald. Oswald was rushed to Parkland hospital and pronounced dead at 1:07p.m..
JKF and American Public, P79.
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B., P80.
His death was announced by the chief of Dallas police department, Jesse Curry. While
ABC and CBS were quite frustrated at having recorded the event only on film, NBC
quietly appreciated its live coverage scoop. NBC, by cutting quickly and abruptly to
Dallas, was the only network to carry the murder “live.” As Doyle Vinson, Assistant
News Director of NBC’s affiliate WBAPTV, recalled it: “NBC correspondent Tom
Pettit was in the basement of City Hall with live cameras and he was on the network with
live narration by the time Oswald was shot.” When NBC reporter Tom Pettit kept
repeating “He’s been shot; he’s been shot; Lee Oswald has been shot” at the scene, the
Oswald’s murder became America’s first major seeitasithappens national event.”
Through Sunday, the television networks stations had also been preparing remote
units at several places along the route to photograph and describe the cortege from almost
every angle. NBC Correspondent Robert Goralski was positioned atop the Apex building
with a remote unit the network had rented from WBAL in Baltimore. They could see all
the way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Apex building. NBC used three other
production unites to cover the cortege on Sunday.
NBC remained on the air all night long with their cameras studying the catafalque
and the procession past it. NBC’s Robert Goralski, who had delivered commentary for
the procession and ceremonies much of the day, got home at 10 p.m. Sunday night and
turned on his own television set and began watching the news reports. He said “the
Garner, J. P57.
crowds filed past the Capitol Rotunda until about 2 a.m. the next morning. It wasn’t until
you got home that you had a chance to stop and think.”
On Monday, November 25, a national day of mourning, television media achieved
a new stage on its crisis management. All television networks not only dropped Lee
Oswald rather quickly but also reached an unprecedented level of cooperation by pooling
camera coverage. Three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC supplied more than 50
cameras for the joint coverage alone. Furthermore, each different network was assigned
different responsibilities according to their agreement. For example, CBS was in charge
of the control unit in the Capitol from where it sent edited pictures to other networks;
NBC had responsibility for transmitting the funeral services on the communications
satellite to other nations. Television viewing reached its highest level in history during
this period, attaining a 93 per cent setsinuse rating during the funeral procession from
the White House to Arlington national Cemetery. More than half of the New York homes
with television sets remained tuned for thirteen consecutive hours on Monday, the final
day in the fourday period of special programming. Dallas audiences watched three
funerals. Besides receiving the broadcast of the President’s funeral process in
Washington D.C. from the three networks, Dallas viewers also saw the service of slain
police officer J. D. Tippit Jr. and later the burial of the Lee Oswald. KRLDTV sent film
crews to record Oswald’s funeral that day but it did not show until later Monday night.
Originally from A.C. Nielson, Nielson Instantaneous Audiometer Service, from a graph by CBS in an
employee newsletter dated December 12, 1963. P4.
On November 26, following the national day of mourning, the nation resumed its
business. Even as to Jack Ruby, the media did not report any detailed and continuous
information on him until his trial in early 1964. President Lyndon Johnson praised the
television media for their performance during this national crisis:
“Television’s remarkable performance in communicating news of President John
F. Kennedy’s assassination and the events that followed was a source of sober
satisfaction to all Americans.
It acted swiftly. It acted surely. It acted intelligently and in impeccable taste.
On that unforgettable weekend in November 1963, television provided a personal
experience which all could share, a vast religious service which all could attend, and a
unifying bond which all could feel.
I take this opportunity to add my voice to those who already have recognized
television’s historic contribution.”
This concentrated fourday commercial free television coverage of Kennedy’s
assassination and its aftermath was an unprecedented challenge for the television media
at that time. Through covering the events and helping the nation manage the crisis in such
a short time, the television media had learned valuable lessons and gained plentiful
The President of ABC News, Elmer Lower, in looking back on this marathon
telecast, said: “There has never been a story like this. The presence for the first time of
electronic and film media at the climactic moments of a story, the great figures of our
country and the world who took part and, of course, that fact that it was all so
Lower, E. (1963). in ABC News press release dated November 26, 1963, P175.
Timeline of the 2001 September 11 Terrorist Attacks
(American Eastern Standard Time)
September 11, 2001
8:45 a.m.: A hijacked passenger jet, American Airlines Flight 11, which left Boston en
route to Los Angles with 92 people on board, crashed into the 110story north tower of
the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.
9:03 a.m.: A second hijacked airliner, United Airlines Flight 175 carrying 65 passengers
from Boston, crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center and exploded. Both
buildings were burning.
9:17 a.m.: The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all New York City area
9:21 a.m.: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered all bridges and
tunnels in the New York area closed.
9:30 a.m.: President Bush, speaking in Sarasota, Florida, said the country had suffered
“an apparent terrorist attack." Through the media, he also said he would order "a full
scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.
Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
9:40 a.m.: The FAA halted all flight operations at U.S. airports: the first time in U.S.
history that air traffic nationwide had been halted.
Approximately 9:43 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 77 with 64 people abroad crashed
into the Pentagon, severely damaging one side of the building.
9:45 a.m.: The U.S. government buildings in Washington including the Capitol and the
White House were evacuated.
9:57 a.m.: President Bush departed from Florida.
10:00 a.m.: The south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, plummeting into the
streets below. A massive cloud of dust and debris formed and slowly drifted away from
10:10 a.m.: A portion of the Pentagon collapsed.
10:10 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 93 with 38 passengers and seven crew members, also
hijacked, crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
10:13 a.m.: The United Nations building evacuated.
10:24 a.m.: The FAA reported that all inbound transatlantic aircraft flying into the United
States were to be diverted to Canada.
10:28 a.m.: The World Trade Center's north tower collapsed.
About 11:02 a.m.: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urged New Yorkers to stay at
home and ordered an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street.
11:16 a.m.: CNN reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were
preparing emergencyresponse teams in a precautionary move.
12:15 p.m.: The Immigration and Naturalization Service said U.S. borders with Canada
and Mexico were on the highest state of alert.
1:04 p.m.: President Bush, speaking from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said
that security measures were being taken. He asked for prayers for those killed or
wounded in the attacks and said: "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and
punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
1:27 p.m.: A state of emergency was declared in Washington, D.C..
About 1:44 p.m.: The Pentagon said five warships and two aircraft carriers would leave
the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, to protect the East Coast from further attack
and to reduce the number of ships in port. Meanwhile, President Bush left Barksdale Air
Force Base aboard Air Force One and flied to an Air Force base in Nebraska.
2:38 p.m.: At the first televised Press conference after the event, Giuliani said that the
efforts and focus from then on was to save as many lives as possible. Asked about the
number of people killed, Giuliani said, "I don't think we want to speculate about that
more than any of us can bear."
4:00 p.m.: CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor reported that U.S.
officials said there were "good indications" that Saudi militant Osama bin Laden,
suspected of coordinating the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998, was involved in
4:06 p.m.: California Gov. Gray Davis dispatched urban searchandrescue teams to New
4:25 p.m.: The American Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock
Exchange said they would remain closed Wednesday.
4:30 p.m.: The president left Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska aboard Air Force One to
return to Washington.
About 5:20 p.m.: The 47story Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex collapsed.
The evacuated building was damaged when the twin towers across the street collapsed
earlier in the day. Other nearby buildings in the area remained ablaze.
6:10 p.m.: Mayor Giuliani urged New Yorkers to stay home Wednesday if they can.
6:40 p.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, held a news conference in the
Pentagon, noting the building was operational. "It will be in business tomorrow," he said.
6:54 p.m.: President Bush arrived back at the White House aboard Marine One and was
scheduled to address the nation at 8:30 p.m.
7:20 p.m.: President Bush declared New York a major disaster in the wake of the attacks
on the World Trade Center.
7:45 p.m.: The New York Police Department said that at least 78 officers were missing.
The city also reported that as many as half of the first 400 firefighters on the scene were
8:30 p.m.: President Bush addressed the nation, saying, "Thousands of lives were
suddenly ended by evil" and asked for prayers for the families and friends of Tuesday's
victims. "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,"
he said. The president said the U.S. government would make no distinction between the
terrorists who committed the acts and those who harbored them. He added that
government offices in Washington were reopening for essential personnel Tuesday night
and for all workers Wednesday.
11:54 p.m.: CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno reported that a government
official told him there was an open microphone on one of the hijacked planes and that
sounds of discussion and "duress" were heard. Sesno also reported a source says law
enforcement had "credible" information and leads and was confident about the
September 12, 2001
From the early morning, people began to look for the missing persons. New York Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani warned the death toll would be thousands at the World Trade Center.
Firefighters continued to douse flames in New York and Washington. President Bush
began his first full day back in the White House, he declared the attacks were "acts of
war" and began to rally “an international coalition to combat terrorism”, he also visited
the damaged Pentagon in the afternoon.
September 13, 2001
President Bush spoke by telephone with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the morning and
then met with members of Congress from New York and Virginia about assistance to
families and victims of the attack. President Bush vowed that America would "lead the
world to victory" over terrorism in a struggle he termed the first war of the 21st century.
Hijacking trail led FBI to a Florida Flight school and the names of suspects and planners
said to be known. Secretary of State Colin Powell identified Osama Bin Laden as
the prime suspect and said other countries could no longer remain neutral in the fight
against terrorism. The United States would respond with a sustained military campaign,
not a single strike, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. Air travel cautiously
September 14, 2001
In the morning, President Bush arrived at Washington National Cathedral for prayer
serve, he said: “We are here in the middle hour of our grief.” In the afternoon, President
Bush arrived in downtown New York, visited the WTC site and addressed the rescue
workers. President Bush declared national emergency and gave military authority to call
50,000 reservists to active duty. Justice Department released names of the 19 hijackers.
Afghanistan's Taliban militia warned of "revenge" if United States attacked it for
harboring bin Laden. President Bush led four former presidents and nation in prayer at
National Cathedral and visits trade center site.
September 15, 2001
President Bush told the military to get ready for a long war against terrorism and vowed
to “do what it takes to win.” The State Department warned governments would
be isolated if they tolerated or assisted terrorist groups. Pakistan agreed to the full list of
U.S. demands for a possible attack on neighboring Afghanistan.
September 16, 2001
President Bush pledged "crusade" to "rid the world of evildoers," brushed off reported
Osama bin Laden denial. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney warned that those who harbor
terrorists would face "the full wrath of the United States." Pakistani official said senior
delegation sent to Afghanistan to deliver U.S. message: hand over Osama bin Laden or
risk massive assault.
September 17, 2001
The supreme leader of Afghanistan's Taliban said a grand council of Islamic clerics
would decide whether to hand over bin Laden. The Federal Reserve cut its key interest
rate to try to keep the economy from plunging into a recession. Investors sent stocks
reeling on Wall Street's first day of trading since the attacks. The list of people FBI
wanted detained in the United States and abroad grew to nearly 200. In the afternoon,
President Bush made his speech “Islam is Peace” at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.,
he said: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all
about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and
October 7, 2001
America began the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. President Bush addressed nation on
television: “On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda
terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of
Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the
Taliban regime.” Later, the American television networks broadcast a statement from
Osama Bin Laden pretaped in anticipation of the U.S. move and delivered to the Arabian
alJazeera television network.
October 10, 2001
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice asked the American television networks to
edit the videotaped statements by Osama bin Laden and his followers rather than
broadcast them live and in their entirely.
Technologies of Television Medium in 2001
The Arrival of “the Instantaneous Communications”
The technologies of the television medium have made enormous progress over the
past four decades, since the formation of the first television society in history. Today’s
viewers enjoy a more miraculous world that television creates than anyone could ever
imagine. The widespread use of color television since late 1960s and the advent of high
definition television (HDTV) and digital television since 1980s provide viewers with
better video and audio qualities that greatly attract the public to get information from
television. Most importantly, the dramatic strides of media technology has made by the
television industry not only result in more media outlets providing the public with a
variety of information but also push the television news coverage onto a stage of the
instantaneous communications. The cable television system, communication satellites,
electronic newsgathering equipment (ENG) and the recent videophone form the core of
During the early stages of television development, people living far away from
cities or places where television stations were located could receive only blurred pictures
on their televisions because of the interference caused by the long distance. In the late
1940s, people placed large antennas on hilltops high above the average terrain in the
outlying areas, from which distant television signals could then be carried by wires into
home television receivers. By doing this, hundreds of thousands of home television
receivers in the rural areas could receive television signals with better quality. At that
time, cable television was called “community antenna television (CATV). Today, the
cable television system is more complex and has been much improved. For example,
before the 1980s, most cable systems transmitted electronic television signals via coaxial
cable which could only allow a limited number of channels. The use of fiberoptic
technology today solves this problem. Fiber optics can handle as many as 1000 channels
without interference. Richard Campbell (1998) explains how cable television works: in a
cable system, television signals are processed at a computerized nerve center, or headend,
which operates various large satellite dishes that receive and process longdistance
signals from one television station to another. In addition, the headend houses receiving
equipment that can pick up signals from a local television station or from a nearby city’s
television station. It relays each channel, local network affiliate, independent station, and
public television signal along its own separate line. After “downlinking” various channels
from satellite and pulling in nearby stations from the airwaves, headend computers relay
them to a community in the same way that telephone calls and electric power reach the
home. Most television channels are relayed from the headend through trunk and feeder
cables attached to existing utility poles. Cable companies rent space on these poles from
phone and electric companies. Signals are then transmitted to drop or tap lines that run
from the utility poles into homes. As television signals move from drop lines to television
sets, they may pass through a cable converter box, which inputs each channel and enables
the television set to receive 30 to 120 signals.
Campbell, R. (1998). Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. NY: St. Martin’s
Cable News Network (CNN) is one of the most important innovations since the
establishment of the cable networks and one of the biggest achievements in cable
television during the final quarter of the 20th century. In 1960, fewer than 2 percent of
American television households had cable television. By 1981, over 23 million American
homes were hooked up to cable. Nielsen reported that, by 1984, 42.5 percent
(35,738,000) of U.S. television households were wired for cable. Long before Ted
Turner was thinking about establishing this aroundtheclock cable news channel, he had
foreseen the potential and bright future of cable television. Launched in June, 1980, as a
relatively small television news organization compared to other major networks, CNN
has experienced a variety of difficulties and setbacks. However, “by 1990, Ted Turner's
24 houraday creation had become a major source for breaking news. Praise became so
routine that few were surprised when a mid1990s Roper survey found viewers ranked
CNN as the "most fair" among all TV outlets, and the Times Mirror's Center for The
People & The Press found viewers trusted CNN more than any television news
organization.” Today, besides reaching 56 million household domestically, CNN has
grown into the biggest global news network.
While broadcast and cable networks are mushrooming, television viewers are
demanding more news and information from these different outlets. To fulfill that need of
the audiences, the news organizations are more eager than ever to get the cuttingedge
news gathering and reporting equipment that enables them to inform the public by
Gamble, M.W. & Gamble, T.K. (1989). Introducing Mass Communication (2 Ed.).NY: McGrawHill,
Gomery, D. (1997) Cable News Network. In Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television,
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Malko, C. (1990). CNN Celebrate Tenth Anniversary. Multichannel News. May 21, 1990, P63.
bringing them the news from anywhere and at anytime. Towards this end, Electronic
News Gathering equipment (ENG) was born in the mid1970s and was then rapidly used
by most of the television stations in the United States. Before 1970s, television news
depended heavily on film, rather than videotape. Film was cumbersome and
inconvenient. It demanded bulky cameras, and elaborate processing and editing. It could
not be reused. When coupled with ENG, videotape not only allowed for ease of editing,
but gave camera crews and reporters greater mobility. Therefore, the time gap between
when reporters got to a news event and when that event was presented to audiences
became significantly lessened, and at times disappeared, because of ENG. Sophisticated
videotape cameras could be coupled to microwave relay units mounted on vehicles or
helicopters, permitting news or stories to be fed back to the stations for editing or even
fed live, as onthespot coverage of breaking events. Since the forte of ENG is its ability
to record many pictures anywhere and get them on the air very quickly, the television
industry has developed the capability to report many events within hours or minutes, or,
live. Therefore, news becomes more visual, immediate, and interesting.
ENG may have revolutionized television news, but no more so than the
communications satellite. Audiences have come to expect instantaneous coverage of
events from every corner of the globe. Before the launch of the synchronous or
geostationary communication satellites, the early communication satellites, such as
Telstar and Relay, worked only for a few hours a day, “when they passed over the
Paterson,C.(1997). News, Local and Regional. In Newcomb, H& O’Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of
Television. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Black, J.& Whitney, F.C. P306.
Black, J & Whitney, F.C. P306.
regions—or footprints—they were serving.” In 1965, the launching of the
communications satellite, Early Bird, into synchronous orbit, marked the fullscale
commercial operation of communications satellite. By the early 1970s, a real sense of the
international communication system had emerged, with several synchronous satellites in
fixed positions over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. According to Richard
Campbell of Middle Tennessee State University, today, about 65 percent of satellite use
is for television, news, and cable services. Communications satellite plays an essential
role in connecting television stations nationwide. For instance, there are approximately
860 television stations in the U.S. that produce news programming. ABC, CBS and NBC
have about 200 affiliates each. Most of those 860 stations are also affiliated with CNN,
which has a total of 677 affiliates. Usually, those major broadcast networks and cable
networks provide a video wire service in the form of satellite feeds for their affiliates.
Meanwhile, breaking news, such as news of the September 11 terrorist attacks, reported
by one affiliate could be quickly or instantly distributed to other affiliates or even other
nation’s television stations through satellites.
The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. brought
the public attentions to instantaneous news coverage. One of the most high profile
technologies the television news media had used in these events was the videophone
technology. As the live images from New York, Washington D.C. and even from
Afghanistan were delivered to American households, for the first time in history, “the
Campbell, R. P165.
satellite videophone is changing the face of international television reporting” in such a
The videophone’s debut dates back to the April of 2001. It delivered American
audiences the images of U.S. spyplane crew leaving China’s Hainan province days after
the plane’s colliding with a Chinese fighter. The videophone is “a good first resource to
use while we transport our uplink and set it up,” says Frank Governale, CBS News Vice
President for Operations. Videophone technology, when coupled with satellite phones
or highspeed telephone lines, can enable television reporters to travel in remote areas
and send back live news accounts. The device, which can be powered by a car battery,
has connections for both video and audio. Its crucial function is to take the images from a
video camera and compress them, and then provide an output signal that can be
transmitted with telephone equipment. The phone relays the signal via a
communications satellite parked in geostationary orbit at 22,300 miles above the earth.
Although it has low image quality because of the low transmission rate, its unique
feature is that it is easy to set up and to broadcast news live from anywhere, in any
situation. Traditional portable satellite dishes weigh more than a half ton and have about
13 components; the videophone itself is about the size of a laptop computer but twice as
thick. Its components fit into four suitcases and can be assembled or broken down in
minutes. It needs neither those bulky uplink trucks one encounters outside courthouses or
The Changing face of Live News Broadcasting. International Broadcast Engineer (IBE). October, 2001.
Issue 322. P7.
Wasserman, E. (2001). The Videophone War. American Journalism Review. November, 2001, Vol23,
Gruner, S. (2001). Reporters Use Videophones From World’s Hot Spot. The Wall Street Journal.
Tuesday, December 4 , 2001. Vol.238. B11F.
public buildings where news is breaking, nor fixed transmission facilities. “They may not
have been the world’s greatest pictures, but they were live,” says Peter Beardow, the
managing director of 7E Communication Ltd., which makes the device.
Today’s media technologies provide television journalists with more powerful
tools and more opportunities in news reporting than ever before. During the national
crisis of the September 11 terrorist attacks and its aftermath, these technologies of the
instantaneous communications were widely and intensively used to cover the events and
to help the nation and its people cope with this catastrophe. On the day of terror, in New
York City, the cable television system still functioned throughout the crisis and served
the city after most of the broadcast signals went to dark; From the rescue scenes at New
York City and Washington D.C. to the Taliban news conference in the capital of
Afghanistan, the ENG, satellite and videophone technologies provided people all over the
world with great opportunities to see the side of justice as well as the side of evil
However, these new media technologies also bring some new challenges to
television media, especially in a time of national crisis. After all, instantaneous
communications technology cannot fully demonstrate its potential advantages unless the
television media know how to fully utilize it to benefit themselves and the public. The
events of the September 11 terrorist attacks are good examples of how television media,
with the use of these modern technologies, have changed its roles in a time of national
BLAIR, J. (2001). For Many Since the Attack, No Cable Means No TV. The New York Times, October
4 , 2001. Section B. P9.
Television Media and the September 11 Terrorist Attacks
The Television Coverage of the First National Crisis in the 21 Century
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, started as a clear morning in New York and
Washington D.C.. However, at 8:45 a.m., when the first commercial airplane crashed into
the north tower of the World Trade Center, the day then became what Dan Rather, CBS
news anchorman, described as one of the darkest days in the history of the United States.
The September 11 terrorist attacks happened so suddenly and “terminated in the most
deadly, most damaging case of terrorism in history.” No one, at that time, could ever
predict or believe such a horrible thing could actually happen except those terrorists who
planned and carried out these attacks. Although the broadcast and cable television
networks usually had some plans to deal with emergency or crisis situations even before
September 11 of 2001, they had never expected these attacks would take place on such an
extraordinary scale. “We are trained when something happens to know what to do,” said
Steve Friedman, Senior Executive Producer of CBS, “but nothing could train you for
this.” Just like the rest of us, reporters and anchors of the American television media
were deeply shocked on the day of September 11. “What?” Peter Jennings of ABC was
so stunned when he heard that one of the World Trade Centers had just collapsed. Due
to the overwhelming amount of information flowing at an extremely high speed, there
Nacos, B.L. (2002).Massmediated terrorism: the central role of the media in terrorism and
counterterrorism. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. P33.
Robertson, L. (2001). We have a breaking story. American Journalism Review. October 2001. Vol.23.
James, C. (2001). Live Images Make Viewers Witnesses to Horror. The New York Times. September 12 ,
2001. Vol150. PA25.
was no way that a television network could follow the normal process of reporting,
analyzing and editing news. Sometimes, just simply passing raw information to the public
could be a wise idea considering the precious time may mean that a life could be saved if
a certain type of blood was needed urgently; sometimes, raw reporting could also create
flawed information, which would cause some kind of damage to others. There is such a
dilemma for journalists to deal with in a time of crisis or emergency. The extent to which
they can successfully deal with this is no longer just a question of experience or being
ethical or not. It has become a question of how the media can help manage the crisis
situation since September 11, 2001. “Every decision we make is minutebyminute,” said
Leslie Moonves, President of Viacom Inc.’s CBS unit. To journalism, such an extreme,
traumatic, and critical situation as September 11 requires both immediacy and credibility.
This is a special task that no journalist had really experienced before September 11.
However, while facing such an unprecedented challenge, many journalists of the
television networks did not let the chaos and their inevitable personal emotions stop or
even interrupt their continuous work; instead, they stayed calm most of the time and
showed their professional capabilities.
Almost seconds after the beginning of this national crisis, the major television
networks, NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN, started to assume the unusual and critical
responsibilities of disseminating all relevant and important information to the public,
establishing a close contact between the leaders and people, and taking part in the relief
Beatty, S & Flint, J. (2001).TV Ratings Reflect Nation’s Focus As Coverage Remains Continuous. The
Wall Street Journal. September 13 , 2001, Vol.238. PB6.
At the early stage of national crisis, the main tasks of media outlets are to collect
all kinds of information available, to “draw” a clear picture of what was or is happening
from sources, and then carefully and cautiously to pass information to the public.
Usually, at this stage, there are few or no immediate official confirmations of any kind
from the government or any other reliable sources because of the sudden nature of
terrorism. Terrorist acts always take place so swiftly and devastatingly that no one could
have fully prepared for it, especially the September 11 terrorist attacks. In many cases,
the government even has to rely on the news media to provide the latest development and
relevant information. At the early stage of a national crisis, typically, several major
emergency measures could be taken within a major television network to cope with the
chaotic situation: (a) strengthen the cooperation on live coverage of the news with the
local television stations or affiliates; (b) get information from reporters who happen to be
on the scene(s); (c) send news team(s) to the scene(s) or place(s) close to the scene(s),
and (d) interview eyewitnesses to get their descriptions of the situation. By doing so, the
first account of what has happened and the latest development of the situation could be
established. The event of the September 11 terrorist attacks is an example of how the
television media resort to their own crisis management strategy in a time of national
Hearing that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center, almost
instantaneously, television journalists managed to report the first piece of the shocking
news to their viewers. Television correspondents and news anchors were stunned by this
sudden catastrophe. However, they did not show any sign of panic in front of the camera.
Thousands of millions of audiences saw their calm and reassuring appearances on
television during this critical time; a sense of businessasusual was transmitted to the
viewers through the continuous and concentrated news coverage. Their performance did
convey such a message to the public that a strong nation had not been disintegrated. They
reported as cautiously and accurately as possible. With all kinds of information at hand,
the television networks did not forget to remind viewers the limited amount of
information they had collected by then. When the reporters and anchors expressed their
personal opinions, they stressed that those personal thoughts were just “speculations” so
that misunderstandings in reporting could be minimized and the viewers would be
reminded to make their own judgments on any information they received at the moment.
On ABC, Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson were hosting “Good Morning
America” show when the first attack happened in New York. Not far away, Don Dahler,
an ABC news correspondent, was getting dressed for work at home in Tribeca, about half
a mile from the World Trade Center. When he heard the first plane hit, he called into
ABC using his cellular phone. ABC responded immediately and suspended all the
regularly scheduled programs. Around 8:51a.m., right after being alerted to the breaking
news, Diane Sawyer told viewers of the show in a cautious manner:
“We want to tell you what we know as we know it. But we just got a report in that
there's been some sort of explosion at the World Trade Center in New York City. One
report saidand we can't confirm any of thisthat a plane may have hit one of the two
towers of the World Trade Center. But again, you're seeing the live pictures here. We
have no further details than that. We don't know anything about what they have
concluded happened there this morning but we're going to find out. And, of course, make
sure that everybody knows on the air.”
Coanchor, Charles Gibson, also emphasized that no more details were available
about the incident at that point although he mentioned the terrorism of the 1993 World
Trade Center bombing.
On NBC’s “Today Show”, Matt Lauer was interviewing Richard Hack, author of
the book “Hughes”. After being told that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center,
Matt Lauer told Richard Hack and the viewers: “ok, I have to interrupt you now… we’re
going to go live right now and show you a picture of the World Trade Center, where I
understand—do we have it? We have a breaking story…” 92 After a short break, anchor
Katie Couric continued to tell viewers that "apparently" a plane had crashed into the
tower and then she interviewed a witness on the phone. Meanwhile, CNN's Amanda Lang
was reporting from the New York Stock Exchange; back in the CNN center at Atlanta,
chief news executive Eason Jordan was in the middle of the network's daily morning
"Suddenly, our New York managing editor (Edith Chapin) started screaming at
the top of her lungs that there was a report that a plane had just hit the World Trade
Center," said Jordan, "we looked up at all of the TV monitors and there was nothingjust
the usual sort of 8:40ish type programming."
Transcript of ABC’s “Good Morning America”. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of
LexisNexis Academic Universe.
Transcript of NBC’s “Today Show”. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis
Jordan and other staffers in the conference room ran into the newsroom. By the
time they got there, the New York City bureau had already pointed a camera from the
balcony of its 22ndfloor offices toward the burning building about three miles
When CBS’ “The Early Show” was airing an update about the winners of its
“Week of Wishes” contest, Senior Executive Producer Steve Friedman and other staff in
the control room looked up at monitors that showed views from “Early Show” cameras
throughout the city. They saw smoke coming out of one of the World Trade Center.
“Smoke,” he says, “not fire.” Then they called their local affiliate in New York, WCBS,
and got the confirmation that a plane had just hit one of the twin towers. Soon after, from
WCBS, a live picture of the north tower of World Trade Center belching out black smoke
appeared on CBS. New anchorman Bryant Gumbel announced this breaking news in
front of the camera:
“It’s 8:52 here in New York, I’m Bryant Gumbel. We understand that there has
been a plane crash on the southern tip of Manhattan…We understand that a plane has
crashed into the World Trade Center.
Nashawaty, C.; Cruz, C.; Davis, C.; Flynn, G.& Raftery, B. M.. News Coverage. Entertainment Weekly,
September 28, 2001. Issue 617. P22.
We don’t know anything more than that. We don’t know if it was a commercial
aircraft. We don’t know if it was a private aircraft. We have no idea how many were on
board or what the extent of the injuries are.”
A moment later, Gumbel connected one of the eyewitnesses on the phone to get a
description of the situation. Throughout the day, anchors of all major networks
interviewed witnesses over the phones as well as getting information from their own
reporters. Looking at the live images on the television screen, Charles Gibson of ABC
said to the audiences, “we know so little now, other than what we can see from these
pictures.” By interviewing as many eyewitnesses as possible, the television media could
tell their audiences more than what the people could see from their television screens. As
Peter Jennings said later when he was reporting the attack on the Pentagon: “again, we
have to say that sometimes the camera and the eye don't see precisely what is happening
(By interviewing eyewitnesses), every story helps us to put together a picture of what
actually has happened.” At this early stage of the national crisis, the footage of the
World Trade Center which was hit by the first plane was still not available on the
television. Television viewers as well as the journalists were not only terrified by what
they saw but also confused by what had happened. People were asking: “How could a
plane hit the World Trade Center in such a good and clear day?”; “Is that a missile or
plane?”; “What kind of plane was that?” The interviews with eyewitnesses, therefore,
CBS New Transcript, September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic
Transcript of ABC News Special Report: America under Attack, September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the
database of LexisNexis Academic Universe.
could tell journalists and the television viewers what they did not see at the moment, in
other words, people got a better idea of what had happened.
People were staring at the terrifying image of the north tower belching out black
smoke and talking about the unbelievable “accident”. However, about seventeen minutes
later, unbelievably, they witnessed on television the second hijacked airliner crashing into
the second tower of the World Trade Center.
As the heartland of the media industry, New York City boasts many excellent
journalists who are always ready to do their jobs anywhere at any time. Their
professional sensitivity and commitment to journalism made a difference on September
11, 2001 and in the days following. Their quick response to the emergency helped
information flow unimpeded in a time of a big crisis like this and unite the people across
the nation. In the early stage of this national crisis, a lot of valuable information that
describes and possibly interprets the situation came from those television reporters who
happened to be on the scene or were close to the scene. For example, Elliot Walker, an
NBC producer, also lived near the World Trade Center. When he heard the loud sound of
the plane crashing into the north tower, he was walking down the sidewalk delivering his
young daughter to school. Without hesitation, he called into the NBC immediately and
began to report. When Katie Couric, an NBC anchor, was asking him questions about
evacuation at the World Trade Center site, the second plane hit another tower of the
Based from NBC News Transcript, September 11, 2001. The database of LexisNexis Academic
World Trade Center. Walker was stunned: “Oh, another one [plane] just hit. Something
else just hit, a very large plane just flew directly over my building…”
On ABC, Don Dahler was also on the scene reporting the situation resulted from
the first attack when the second attack took place. Just like the other reporters, he could
not believe his eyes while looking at the tragedy happening. The emotional term of “Oh,
My God!” are the first words he could express. Then Charles Gibson, ABC anchor,
asserted, “concerted effort to attack the World Trade Center that is under way in
downtown New York.”
Back in networks’ studios, the anchors were shocked just as deeply as those
correspondents on the scene while hearing the description from the eyewitnesses. They
could not just believe what they saw on the television screen.
On CBS, when the second plane hit the south tower, Bryant Gumbel was
interviewing the third eyewitness about the situation of the north tower.
Gumbel continued: “…I understand Theresa Renaud is with us right now.
Ms.Renaud, good morning. This is Bryant Gumbel; I’m down on 59 and 5 . Where are
Transcript of ABC News Special Report, September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of Lexis
Nexis Academic Universe.
Theresa Renaud: “I am in Chelsea, and we are at 8 and 16 . We’re in the tallest
building in the area, and my window faces south, so it looks directly onto the World
Trade Center. Approximately ten minutes ago there was a major explosion from about the
80 floor—looks like it’s affected probably four to eight floors. Major flames are coming
out of the north side and also the east side of the building. It was a very loud explosion,
followed by flames, and it looks like the building is still on fire on the inside. …Oh,
there’s another one—another plane just hit. [Gasps; yelling] Oh, my God! Another plane
has just hit—it hit another building, flew right into the middle of it. My God, it’s right in
the middle of the building.”
Gumbel: “This one into [Tower 2]?”
Renaud: “Yes, yes, right in the middle of the building…That was definitely…on
Gumbel: Why do you say that was definitely on purpose?”
Renaud: “Because it just flew straight into it.” 98
After 9:03 a.m., all networks showed again and again the images of the second
Word Trade Center being hit by a second plane. Because there were only 17 minutes
between the two plane crashes, many viewers including the reporters were still talking
CBS News. (2002). What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video.
[videotape]. NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
about the first “accident” during this period of time. Immediately, people realized that
was not accidents, but real terrorist acts. At this point, all the news personalities quickly
responded these happenings by taking the emergency measures. After 9:43 a.m., when
the American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, all the networks also
broadcast live pictures of the Pentagon with lots of smoke after the attacks. Television
screens were divided into two parts. One is the live picture of the damaged Pentagon and
the other is the Twin Towers. Because of the fact that there was no video footage
available at the time when the American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon,
journalists and audiences could only see an image of the Pentagon with a portion
damaged. Anchors in the studio, again, remained cautious in conveying the news to their
Gumbel of CBS was shocked: “Oh, my God, we are looking at a live picture from
Washington and there is a smoke rising out of the Pentagon. It would appear that there is
another major explosion at the nation’s capital. Smoke over the Pentagon. We don’t
know whether this is a result of bomb or whether it is yet another aircraft that has
targeted this symbol of the United States power, but there is smoke rising out of the
Collecting information is not an easy task, even to the most experienced
journalists from the major networks. However, from the very beginning of this national
crisis, a variety of means and tools were used to guarantee the public or the viewers could
get the maximum amount of information. For example, CNN, like other major networks,
CBS News. (2002). What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video.
[videotape]. NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
had the advantage of their local affiliates, whose traffic helicopters had been hovering on
their morning rounds and quickly detoured to the lower tip of Manhattan. When the
second plane struck the World Trade Center, they all caught the disaster live. Moments
after the attacks, dozens of microwave trucks, satellite trucks and camera crews lined the
streets near the World Trade Center site and the Pentagon and could not get into the
already crowed streets closer to the site. While most of the streets in the lower Manhattan
had to be cleared for the emergency vehicles and equipments, hours later, most news and
traffic helicopters, believed to number under 200 nationwide, had been demanded to be
grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Videophone, at this moment, greatly
helped reporters fulfill their goal of gathering and recording valuable information. CNN
deployed all eight of its satellite videophones including some that were used at downtown
Manhattan because the loss of the transmitters on the top of the World Trade Center
made live reports there difficult. Although the images videophone conveyed, sometimes,
were jerky, Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, said, “Some information is better
than no information.”
In the rural area of Pittsburgh where the hijacked United Flight 93 crashed shortly
after the FAA halted all flight operations nationwide, the only news crew that could reach
the scene were Pittsburgh’s local television stations, KDKATV, WTAETV, WCCPTV,
WATMTV and WTAJTV. One of their local reporters said that they had the
advantage of knowing where they were going. From the crash site, “There’s nothing
there” reported Al Blinke, news director at KDKATV Pittsburg, but the tragic scene and
Nashawaty, C. and etc., P22.
Trigoboff, D. (2001). Pa. TV Stations play their parts. Broadcasting & Cable, September 17 , 2001.
the news story were still delivered to the major networks by the local affiliates.
Therefore, these local stations took an extraordinary task of conveying the important
information to the nation.
In times of national crisis, the public do not want to miss any piece of important
information, nor do the television networks. After the first terrorist attack, all networks
were busy collecting amateur video, including closeups of both planes crashing into the
two towers from different angles. One of the most famous examples is the footage of
American Airlines Flight 11 piercing the north tower of the World Trade Centers, which
is the only record showing the tragic moment of the first attack on September 11. The
film clip came from a camera operator who was making a training film for firefighters in
the street near the World Trade Center. When he heard a lowflying plane, the
cameraman aimed his lens from the firefighters’ working scene up at the tower just in
time to catch the impact. J.P. Pappis, editor of the Gamma Press agency, bought the
footage for an undisclosed price. Later that day, CNN and Associated Press Television
News both got the rights to use the footage on television.
Since the rate of information flow increased very rapidly, all television networks
adopted aroundtheclock blanket coverage to cover the crisis and to convey, in a timely
manner, important information to public as well as to authorities. The cost of dropping all
commercials is astronomical. All networks combined were estimated losing $50 million
to $75 million a day in advertising, or between $200 million and $300 million for the first
four days of coverage.
Within each major broadcast and cable network, news coverage was shared in the
hours after the attack. ESPN carried reports from its sister Disney property, ABC. CBS
coverage ran on MTV and VH1, all three are owned by media conglomerate Viacom.
PAX ran coverage from its corporate parent NBC. CNN, now owned by AOLTime
Warner, began simulcasting on TBS, TNT and CNNfn at about 10 a.m. “(that is)
something the network has never done before,” said Walter Isaacson, chairman and chief
executive of the CNN News Group. Meanwhile, Don, Hewitt, executive producer of
CBS’s “60 Minutes,” first proposed an idea of seeking a treaty on competition. CBS
News President Andrew Heyward agreed and called ABC, NBC and CNN. All networks
agreed to share information and make all their video images available to one another in
this special moment. Even radio stations took live television news. Erik Sorenson,
president of MSNBC, NBC and Microsoft’s cable channel, explained the importance of
sharing information within and among networks. He said: “National interest must be
served in a story of this magnitude. Standard competitive issues fall by the wayside and
the need to inform thoroughly takes priority.” The blanket news coverage on all
television networks undoubtedly met the demand of the public for more updated
information on situation.
McClellan, S. The High Cost of Coverage. Broadcasting & Cable, September 17 , 2001. Vol131.P8.
The New York Times. Wednesday, September 12, 2001, A25.
Flint, J. & Beatty, Sally; Broadcast, Cable Networks Call a Truce, Agreeing to Cooperate to Get Story
Out. The Wall Street Journal. September 12, 2001. Vol.238. PA6.
One phenomenon in time of national crisis is that the public as well as the
authorities heavily rely on the public communication system. After the first air strike on
the World Trade Center, the telephone system was not working properly and, for some
period of time, it broke down simply because a flood of phone calls clogged lines.
Television and radio then became the only channels for the anxious people to get the
latest information. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney was the next in line of
succession to the presidency. For the safety concern, Vice President Cheney could not be
together with President Bush physically in times of national crisis. Therefore, one of the
important ways for the Vice President to get information about the President’s activity
was through television. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted that Vice
President watched Bush’s addresses on television from an undisclosed location. Bearing
such enormous responsibilities as well as physical and psychological pressures,
journalists, especially correspondents on the scenes tried to glean all kinds of information
and sift the wrong ones from the facts. However, mistakes still emerged simply because
of the lack of official sources that could confirm information at the moment. “The very
nature of live, blanket coverage of fastmoving events can be journalistically dangerous,”
said David Bohrman, senior executive producer of CNN. “Because raw information isn’t
always accurate information. That’s sort of what we do, I guess: evaluate and make
decisions.” Relying interviewing witnesses and getting all sorts of information from
their reporters on the scenes, obviously the media outlets themselves were unable to
prove all incoming information right away either. All they could do is to correct most of
Rutenberg, J. (2001). Some Flawed Information Occasionally Creeps In. The New York Times.
September 17, 2001, Pc4.
the flawed information and convey the updated information after getting more details
during the second stage of organized response to the national crisis.
For instance, on September 11, 2001, approximately 9:40 eastern time, CNN
reported a car bomb had just exploded at the State Department, which turned out not true
later and was corrected then. At night, CBS reported a piece of news originated by its
New York affiliate, WCBS, that “a van filled with explosives had been found on the
George Washington Bridge.” Later, CBS corrected it when the fact turned out to be “men
in a van were detained but the vehicle did not contain explosives.”
Though some mistakes emerged from news outlets from the start of the crisis,
flawed information kept appearing during the early stage of the crisis and even later.
Early Wednesday morning, Bryant Gumbel of CBS reported some victims were still alive
and they had been using cell phones to call search teams from the bottom of the rubbles.
On Thursday, September 13, 2001, ABC, among other electronic news organizations,
reported that 10 police officers were still alive underneath the rubble at the World Trade
Center. By Friday morning, things had changed. There were no surviving police officers.
“Tips are sometimes reported as they are received and correspondents and
anchors convey information as they are developing it. Sometimes it pans out, and
sometimes it does not. There have been reports of survivors that have turned out to be
untrue. Still On Thursday, CNN reported that several firefighters were rescued from the
From CNN’s Transcript “CNN Breaking News: Terrorism Strikes in the United States in a Massive
Attack”. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic Universe.
wreckage at the World Trade Center. The report was wrong. The rescue workers who
emerged from the rubble had actually become trapped just 15 minutes earlier. There were
only two of them. But the sight of their emergence was misunderstood by many who saw
it. Those people apparently passed erroneous information along to people at the scene, to
some police officers and ultimately, to reporters.”
No matter whether in crisis management or in other special circumstances,
leadership is always one of the keys in achieving the success of overcoming the
difficulties and obstacles. September 11 and its aftermath tested the leaders of the nation
as well as the leadership role the television media played in a crisis situation. President
George W. Bush and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, undoubtedly, played a central
role in leading the nation into the right direction. Television had been capturing their
every move since the first attack. Their appearance on television on September 11 gave
the public confidence to face the unprecedented challenge. Meanwhile, national and local
leaders themselves had to face a crisis that transcended nearly any nightmare they could
ever imagined, and the one that called upon them to summon leadership skills they had
never tested. Less than an hour after the first attack, President Bush, in a Florida
elementary school at the time, appeared on television for the first time on the day. He was
surrounded by some school children to whom he had been reading a book when he was
informed that the World Trade Centers were hit by two planes. President Bush tried to
keep everyone calm and told reporters that he would talk about the situation later because
he did not want to scare the children. Major Garrett, CNN White House correspondent,
Seib, G. (2001). Without Notice, History Hits Bush With Severe Test. The Wall Street Journal.
September 12, 2001, Vol.238, PA20.
described on television at the moment: “well, precisely, and the president has a way of
letting reporters know that it’s either an appropriate time or inappropriate time to take
questions. He does that in many different environments, many different situations.
Clearly this morning, with a crowd of children, he wanted to keep an even keel, keep the
situation under control as best as possible. He just nodded and said—we’ll talk about this
later.” At 9:30p.m., President Bush made his first brief speech on television after the
crisis at the elementary school in Florida.
On CBS, Dan Rather described to the television viewers: “President Bush has
called the deliberate aerial assaults, quote, ‘an apparent terrorist attack.’ He has, of
course, ordered fullscale investigation. The president, at last report, was flying from
Florida, where he was on a visit, back to an unknown destination. There certainly is a
school of thought in Washington that runs—he should return immediately to the White
House, the symbol of stability and all that we hold door, and walk right into the White
House and take command there. Another school of thought is, ‘well, that may not be such
a good idea.’ We’ll see where he goes. In the meantime, Vice President Dick Cheney is
in charge at the White House in the Situation Room.”
President Bush’s first speech on television is very concise: he first defined the
attacks on the World Trade Center as terrorism. He assured the American public that the
government was running as usual, and, specifically, he also briefly mentioned that his
CNN Breaking News, September 11, 2001.
CBS News Transcript. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic
immediate plan, that is, to go back to the White House to deal with the crisis. President
Bush’s very short speech showed the urgent actions the situation required. In the early
stage of the national crisis, to the public, it seems that it is more important to see the
appearance of the national leader to have a sense that the situation will soon be under
control and the government will respond to its greatest extent. To some extent, President
Bush, on the day of September 11, 2001, achieved a goal of calming the public and
informing public the possible measures his cabinet would take accordingly.
Hours later, President Bush made his second speech of the day. Departed from
Florida, his plane arrived at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, where he made his
videotaped speech mainly informing the whereabouts of the president. In his second
speech, President Bush, once again, reassured the American people that full resources of
the federal government were working to assist the local authorities to save lives and to
help the victims of the attacks and the government had been managing the crisis. Many
critics held that the second statement President Bush made on television was not as
reassuring as his first live appearance in Florida because it was taped and only live video
images could offer “a sense of stability and a sense of future.” Even “the audio of the
tape of Bush’s second speech was not working when some networks first played that
tape, which created an ominous sense that things were not under control as much as he
said.” However, to the public, only knowing the whereabouts of the president, in a time
like this, was the one of the most important things, apparently, the media networks
understood this. Reporters had been tracking the whereabouts of the president all day
Caryn James, Live Images Make Viewers Witnesses to Horror, New York Times, September 12, 2001.
since the attacks. Sometimes, assumptions were even made about the president if there
was no clue. For example, on CBS, right before President Bush made the second speech,
an anchor was saying:
“…Well, we thought the president was flying back to Washington from Florida.”
that was the widespread assumption, but assumption is the mother of a lot of erroneous
reporting. And in this case, the assumption proved to be incorrect because the president,
for reasons not yet explained, but no doubt will be explained, flew from Florida to
Barksdale Air Force outside Shreveport, Louisiana.”
Tuesday night, President Bush addressed to the nation live on television at the
White House. This speech is his third speech on the day of September 11 and is relatively
longer and more eloquent than the previous two statements he made during the day. The
third livetelevised national speech is far more important. First of all, the American
public saw their national leader, President Bush, was sitting in his White House office
where he usually works, which created a strong sense of stability or a feeling that
government had begun to control the whole situation. “The most important fact about
President Bush’ TV address last night (Tuesday night) wasn’t what he said but where he
said it.” Second, from Bush’s speech, the public saw unity they had been looking for.
CBS News Transcript. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic
Civility Amid Chaos. The Wall Street Journal. September 12, 2001, Vol. 238. PA18.
Bush said: “I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined
me in strongly condemning these attacks… America and our friends and allies join with
all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war
against terrorism… This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our
resolve for justice and peace.”
Third, Bush’s Tuesday night speech revealed the crisis management of the
government, that is, dealing with the work of rescue, relief, investigation and retaliation.
On the fourth day after the September 11, President Bush, for the first time after
the attacks, toured the site of the World Trade Center. It became what The Boston Globe
said,“a shift from TV's rhetorical arena to its realm of visual symbolism.” There,
President Bush saluted the police, firemen and rescue workers and made remarks to them.
The scenes were nationally televised on all broadcast and cable television networks. Bush
draped his arm around a firefighter, spoke through a bullhorn and made the interactive
remarks with the rescue workers in the disaster. All of these created a powerful image of
unity, strength and bravery. Boston University communications professor Tobe
Berkovitz said these potent television images had solidified Bush’s leadership role.
Looking at the television screen showing President Bush’s visit to the World Trade
Center site, CNN’s Aaron Brown talked about the significance of this visit:
Statement by the President in His Address to the Nation. (8:30 P.M. EDT, September 11, 2001).
Retrieved from: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/2001091116.html.
“On a day when the government raised the specter that the terrorist assault may
not be over, that there may be more men out there, it was hard to find much to feel good
or safe about today. But there was this, one of those moments that seemed to change the
mood, if only for a while, here in New York. The president came to ground zero,
President George W. Bush, to see the disaster area and boost the morale of those whose
day had been so difficult, with the rain and all the rest. He talked to them, they
On September 11 and the days in the aftermath, the three major broadcast
networks and cabletelevision networks assumed the special role of conveying important
information and messages from the government to the public, in other words, the
television medium is an important element in the government’s crisis management plan.
Authorities and government officials passed along important messages to the public
through television because of its immediacy and the capability of reaching the people
nationwide. New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, came to the scene supervising the
rescue work moments after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Throughout the day,
Mayor Rudy Giuliani also appeared frequently on television informing the public of the
progress of the rescue efforts and the development of the situation. Through New York 1,
CNN’s local affiliate in New York, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sent specific guideline to
people in the city of New York on how they could do to help rescue efforts.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani said: “Again, I would urge them (people in New York City)
to remain calm, to remain at home or to remain at their place of business, unless they’re
in lower Manhattan. By that I mean south of Canal Street. If you’re south of Canal Street,
get out, walk, and walk slowly, carefully, there are plenty of police around, but just walk
directly—if you can’t figure out what else to do just walk directly north; that will get you
out of the dangerous smoke area; it will also do us a big favor, it will open up those
streets, because we’re going to (be) moving a large number of ambulances and
emergency personnel in and out of there all day.”
On CNN, Rudy Giuliani informed people nationwide on how to donate blood for
“…Blood donations. We have several sites for blood donations: 153E. 53 St.;
66 and Amsterdam, which is the Red Cross; and 310 E.67 St. If people want to do
something, they can donate blood. That’s going to help, not just today, but tomorrow and
the next day. This relief effort is going to take some time.”
Also on ABC, CBS and NBC, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani repeatedly
reminded the American people that “the only thing to do now is to remain calm and try to
assist in the rescue effort.” He asked people to do anything they could to cooperate, not to
be frightened, and to go about their lives as normal.
Transcript of CNN Breaking News: America under Attack. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the
database of LexisNexis Academic Universe.
Transcript of CNN Breaking News: New York’s Governor And Major of New York City Address
Concerns of the Damage. September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic
On September 11, 2001, the television news industry was among first victims who
suffered the immediate direct damages. Many radio and television stations had
transmitter towers on the top of the World Trade Center. Moments after the first
commercial airliner slammed into the north tower, the broadcast signals of almost every
major television station in the New York region went dark. Only CBS’s WCBSTV was
able to stay on the air because of its backup transmitter and antenna at the Empire State
Building. Nearly 4.5 million people in the region who relied solely on the broadcasting
signals had the trouble in receiving television signals. Only the television viewers who
used cable or satellite in New York area did not have this sort of serious problem.
There had also been casualties within the television industry. For instance, Barbara
Olson, who died on the hijacked planes that smashed into the Pentagon, was a contributor
to CNN. At least two engineers from CBS’s New York affiliate were also killed in the
attacks when they were working inside the World Trade Center that morning. However,
the loss of the media industry did not stop after the terrorist attacks. Instead, the
television media industry began to loss more financially in the days coming after the
September 11. Because of the blanket news coverage of the events, commercials were
suspended on television for more than four days. Millions of ad revenues were lost since
then. However, in the following period of the organized response to the national crisis,
the television networks began to make direct financial contributions to the victims of the
September 11 terrorist attacks. On September 21 , 2001, all major broadcast networks,
including ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, aired “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” a twohour,
commercialfree simulcast from New York and Los Angeles. The networks claimed this
Grotticelli, M. (2001). After the Collapse, stations struggle. Broadcasting & Cable. September 17,
2001.Vol. 131. P20.
“Telethon” to be “an unprecedented cooperative and collaborative effort.” In the U.S, this
telethon averaged 59.3 million viewers, while 89 million tuned in to some portion of the
telecast. This show, attended by many celebrities, was simulcast on 35 broadcast and
cable networks and in more than 156 countries on that day and raised over $150 million
in aid from viewers who called in donations. As part of the September 11th Fund,
founded by the New York Community Trust and United Way of New York City,
television media’s Telethon directly and financially helped victims, families and
communities rebuild and recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
American Television Media in the National Crises
An Analysis of the Television Media’s Roles
The previous chapters have given us an insight into the behaviors of television
media in times of national crises. Through studying the first television coverage of
national crisis, the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the recent one, the
September 11 terrorist attacks, we are able to see the roles the television media played in
those most critical moments. During national crisis, the people and even the government
are more in need of immediate public information than at any other time. People also
want to know more information about the context of the crisis and the management of the
crisis. This includes directions from government officials, measures taken by the
government, and the rescue and relief efforts taken by various organizations. In addition,
people want background information. Under this special circumstance, the television
medium plays two roles: first, it plays the role of simply being a channel to disseminate
information to the public; second, the television medium, as a social institution, shoulders
many social responsibilities—from uniting the nation and helping the public cope with
the crisis to taking part in the government’s strategy of crisis management.
In times of such national crises as the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s assassination and
the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, the enormous amount of information flowed at
an extremely high speed. The 1963 John F. Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath is
the first televised national crisis in American history. The television medium, for the first
time, demonstrated its capability of dealing with the national crisis. On September 11,
2001, the three major broadcast networks, plus the cable television networks, experienced
a national crisis event whose impacts were extraordinarily devastating. The specific
behaviors of television media in times of these two events are different because of the
two different circumstances; however, there are some similar patterns the television
media used in dealing with the national crises. The television media acquired and used
their tactics of crisis management through their own experience in covering the national
Whenever a national crisis arises, unity is always among the first and also the
most important goal everyone in the nation expects. In 1963, after the assassination,
many journalists rushed to Parkland hospital where the President Kennedy was being
treated. All the broadcast networks, in the early afternoon of that day, were frequently
showing pictures of a big crowd gathering outside of the hospital anxiously waiting for
news about President Kennedy’s condition. CBS showed images of the griefstricken
people including congressmen, senators, women and children. KRLDTV news
anchorman, Bob Huffaker, said, at the moment, that: “(it is) a scene of indescribable
sadness and horror.” However, it was these pictures of sadness, horror, or even anger
among all the public that also sent a message to the nation and the world that the
American people shared the same grief over the loss of the President whom they loved,
and American people were united at that critical moment. On September 11, 2001,
shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush appeared
on television making his first statement in regard to the terrorist attacks. The camera did
not zoom in to get a closeup of President Bush’s facial expression when he was making
this brief and somber speech. Instead, the television audiences saw an image of President
Bush surrounded by schoolchildren, faculty, staff and many other people. Those people
standing behind the President represented united Americans supporting their national
leader in a time of national crisis. At that moment, the vision created by the tableau of the
president and the citizens standing with him was large and powerful, regardless of the
size of the television screen.
As media, the television networks did not just help convey the image of the
nation’s unity, behind the scene the television networks themselves also united with one
another to an extent they had never done before. Cooperation among the media, in the
time of crisis, means unity and stability. For example, in 1963, ABC allowed the other
two networks to use its “exclusive” Pope Paul VI statement over the death of President
John F. Kennedy. Elmer W. Lower, former ABC News president, said: “I made my final
decision in the spirit of cooperation that had been pledged by a news executive at another
network. The interview (with the Pope) was sent by the communications satellite and was
used by all networks.” Later on the day of President Kennedy’s funeral, all three major
networks reported this special media event together by following their agreement, which
was made the day after the assassination. NBC and CBS supplied more than half of their
cameras for the coordinated news coverage in 65 to 100 locations. ABC, which possessed
18 cameras in total, also contributed 13 pool cameras to make its efforts. Through cable,
all the recorded video footage was sent to the control unit in the Capitol where CBS could
edit the materials. Eventually, all the networks could request shots they wanted for their
Greenberg, B.S.,& Parker, E.B. (1965).
coverage. William E. Trevarthen, NBC’s Vice President of Operations and Engineering,
said this was something he had never seen in television before. It seemed that almost
overnight all the broadcast networks had learned how to deal with crisis reporting.
However, this cooperation was not always smooth. For instance, on Sunday, November
24, 1963, Elmer W. Lower called a news executive from another network to request a
videotape of the shooting of Oswald. That news executive agreed at first, but later backed
off. Lower described that: “he threatened legal action if ABC used the tape on the basis
of his original agreement to cooperate.”
On September 11, 2001, the scale of cooperation among all the television
networks was unprecedented and appeared to be professional. All the networks turned to
the mode of breaking news coverage immediately after the terrorist attacks. They not
only simulcast the same footage on their sister networks, but also shared their own
footage with other competing networks. Although there has been no indication that the
cooperation between major networks was the first measure the television media took to
deal with the national crisis, it was at least an essential factor to guarantee a possible
steady and free flow of relevant public information. If all media outlets cooperate to
cover the same news event, it usually means that more channels are actually provided for
the flow of information related to that event. For example, in 1963, the television
audiences only received the news coverage of the Kennedy assassination from the three
major networks—NBC, CBS and ABC. Today, we have more channels on television than
Lower, E. A Television Network Gathers the News, in Greenberg, B.S. and Parker, E.B. (1965). The
Kennedy’s Assassination and The American Public: Social Communication in Crisis. CA: Stanford
ever before. On September 11, 2001, we did not see many different news coverage of the
event as we counted the number of television channels we had. All the entertainment
cable networks were carrying the feed from the major broadcast and cable networks,
NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN or FOX. However, this cooperation in and even between
different television networks did provide the eventrelated information with more chances
of reaching the public at the expense of other irrelevant news or information. Therefore,
in these two events, a more powerful crisistargeted television medium was actually
formed through cooperation. Mr. Andrew Heyward, CBS News President, talked about
the purpose of media’s cooperation in times of national crisis was to “get people
whatever information we (networks) can.”
As the disseminator of public information, the television media showed the world
the tragedies in a visual way. Nacos (2002) held that without the frightening images, the
impacts of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America and the rest of the world would
not have been as immediate and intense as it was. For example, on September 11,
2001, many people around the globe were able to watch the live coverage of the terrorist
attacks on New York and Washington D.C. because of the technology of the fast news
delivery. The tragedy was unfolding even faster than the viewers could absorb it
emotionally. Sympathy and support for the United States were evoked quickly all over
the world. On that day of terror, leaders from many nations showed their support for
America immediately after watching the live news coverage of the event. Czech
President Vaclav Havel said in a statement that he was shocked by the attacks and was
Flint, J.& Beatty, S., PA6.
Nacos, B.L., P39.
closely following news coverage from the United States. The sympathy and support
from other nations were vital for the United States to quickly and successfully build an
antiterrorism coalition in the aftermath of the tragedy. Therefore, in some sense, the
television media, by simply transmitting the public information live on the day of
September 11 of 2001, were also the first, to recruit world leaders to join antiterror
Another striking phenomenon about the television media in both the 1963 and
2001 national crises is the remarkable access the reporters had to the suspect or the
nation’s enemies. With the help of portable cameras, video tapes, cable and microwave
technologies, journalists could conduct a facetoface conversations with the suspected
assassin, Lee H. Oswald, at the police headquarter in 1963; With the help of satellite
videophone technologies, Nic Robertson could relay the Taliban’s news conference live
from Afghanistan, and also with the tape recorder and satellite technologies, people
around the world finally saw the faces of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden in the
aftermath of September 11.
The development of media technologies not only has bestowed the television
media with more capabilities to access all information, but also has made the media itself
more easily accessed by the public. By 1963, the technologies of television media had
made significant progress that allowed journalists to give full play to their abilities.
Through covering the 1963 Kennedy’s assassination, television had strengthened its
The Houston Chronicle, September 11, 2001. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic
leading role in media industry. According to the Nielsen reports, from November 22 to
November 25, 1963, the average television receiver had tuned to the news for a total of
31.6 hours. During that time, Nielsen estimated, approximately 166 million Americans in
over 51 million homes were tuned in at some time to the Kennedy assassination
programming, and in onesixth of those homes people had their television on the big
story for more than 11 hours per day. Nielsen also found Monday, the day of the funeral,
was the day of heaviest television viewing. On September 11, 2001, Nielson reported
that at least 60.5 million viewers tuned in to watch one of the four major broadcast
networks during Tuesday night’s 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) coverage,
according to very preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research. The data suggests
about 40 million homes tuned in during an average minute of the coverage on the four
major broadcast networks. Those figures indicate the enormous size of the population the
television media reached during those two national crises. “On a day of death, television
was a lifeline to what was happening.” In 1963, radio beat television in terms of fast
relaying information about the assassination of President Kennedy from the very
beginning because the television media at the time did not have the capability of live
coverage of an emergency, which was due to the limit of media technologies at the time
and the lack of experience of journalists in dealing with a crisis situation. Since the first
televised national crisis, President Kenney’s assassination, the television media have
covered numerous national and other crises. Between November of 1963 and September
of 2001, the television media had gained more experience and made more technical
developments. In a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research, 24% of the
Greenberg, B.S. and Parker, E.B., P14.
national adults first heard the news about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
from television; another survey also conducted by the National Opinion Research
revealed that 83% of the national adults watched television or listened to radio after
hearing the news President John F. Kennedy was shot. On September 11, 2001, a poll
conducted by Washington Post and ABC News revealed that 99% of the national adults
watched television or listened to radio after hearing the news of terrorist attacks. With
more of the public turned to broadcast and cable television networks for live coverage of
the national events in 2001 than people did so in 1963. Television medium today begins
to exercise more roles in the management of national crisis.
While facing the horror, television viewers tend to return to the traditional
networks for sharing their grief and seeking possible help from a news anchor. Back in
1963, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite was among the first to report the tragic event and he
also stayed on television for many hours later to update the situation. In 2001, prestigious
anchors, such as Peter Jennings of ABC, Dan Rather of CBS and Tom Brokaw of NBC,
immediately went back to their seats in the news studios taking over the coverage. For a
long period of time before the September 11, the role of television news anchors,
actually, had been usurped to an extent by cable networks and the Internet. The event
of Kennedy’s assassination, for the first time, demonstrated the importance of the
television anchor in a time of national crisis.
National Research Center (1963). Roper Center at University of Connecticut, Public Opinion Online.
Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic Universe.
ABC News and Washington Post Poll (2001) Roper Center at University of Connecticut, Public Opinion
Online. Retrieved from the database of LexisNexis Academic Universe.
Carter,B. & Rutenberg, J. (2001). Viewers Again Return To Traditional Networks. The New York Times.
September 15, 2001. PA14.
Today, the role of the television anchor has been given more meanings.
“Television anchors may not intentionally try to be anything beyond journalists, but in
the early stages of a national crisis, just giving information and simply being there and
being who they are does foster additional roles. They are far more than journalists during
times of national crisis. As they reassure the public, they play the roles, consciously or
not, of minister, counselor or leader.” After President Kennedy was assassinated and
before the swearingin of Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, there was temporarily
no concrete appearance of any wellknown official leader on television. At this moment,
news anchor, Walter Cronkite, took such a leadership role by staying on television for
hours. The simple presence of he and other anchors on television conveyed to the public a
message of stability and unity. On September 11, 2001, the news anchor’s importance of
taking leadership in a crisis situation did not fade with the frequent appearance of
President Bush and other government officials on television. Instead, the leadership roles
played by news anchors were greatly highlighted. President George W. Bush frequently
appeared on television moments after the terrorist attacks and then every day in the
aftermath. His eloquent speeches were intended to assure the American people and to
show the world that the American government had the capability to manage this national
crisis and the nation would prevail in the end. To some extent, Bush did realize his goals
of rallying many nations and his own people. On the other hand, the public needed
specific suggestions and plain assurances on how to overcome the crisis. News anchors,
at this point, met this need of the public by being leaders helping people find the right
Robertson, L.(2001). Anchoring the Nation. American Journalism Review. November 2001. Vol. 23.
direction. For example, Aaron Brown stood and reported on the roof of the CNN’s New
York bureau, which is a high building facing the collapsing World Trade Center in the
morning of September 11, 2001. His expression and performance in front of camera are a
kind of powerful nonverbal language, which assured and encouraged the frightened
audiences. At the CBS studio, shortly after 10:00 a.m. when the second plane just crashed
into the second tower, the camera immediately turned to the anchorman, Dan Rather. He
was facing the viewers with dismal but extremely calm expression. He said:
“This is CBS News continuing live coverage of the apparent terrorist attacks
today here in New York City, and in Washington, D.C. it’s important to say these things
at the very beginning. (The first thing is that) there is much that is not known about what
is happening; the second thing is that the words from almost everybody who is trying to
deal with this situation, the word is ‘steady,’ ‘steady’.”
Unlike the Kennedy assassination, the physical and financial loss of the
September 11 terrorist attacks was enormous. In 1963, people deeply suffered from the
psychological and political damages the President’s death brought. The broadcast media
shouldered an unusual role of relieving the public’s pain over the loss of the President.
All networks arranged a concert or music show in every evening during that black
weekend. For example, on the night of November 22, 1963, NBC concluded its
broadcasting day with a symphonic tribute from the NBC Studio Orchestra; on the
following night, CBS presented a memorial concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra; on the
CBS News. What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video.
[videotape]. NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Sunday night, ABC telecast a show featuring classical music and dramatic readings. In
addition, during the President’s funeral ceremonies, the networks broadcast coverage of
the scenes of chilled mourners filing through the great Rotunda of the Capitol to the late
afternoon shadows across Arlington Cemetery. To help restore the political stability, all
the networks also followed and reported closely every move of Vice President Johnson in
the aftermath. All those relief efforts paid off in helping the public overcome the tragedy
and assisting the nation to resume its business on November 26 , 1963.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, to help treat the severe trauma the
terrorist attacks caused on many people, all the networks invited health experts to give
advice on how to recover from this psychological suffering. To help the victims and their
families, all television networks helped the rescue and relief units disseminate and
receive information, such as helping Red Cross post information on blooddonation.
Meanwhile, television networks directly and indirectly raised money or donations for
individuals and families who had suffered losses in the terrorist attacks. For example,
television networks produced the telethon named “America: A Tribute to Heroes”. All
the television stations, including the broadcast and cable networks, were also impacted by
the September 11 terrorist attacks. They suffered heavy financial loss by suspending all
commercials for many days and spent millions more on the aroundtheclock news
coverage of the events and its aftermath. However, the television media’s role of being
the relief workers did not change. Instead, this role had been greatly consolidated in the
aftermath of this unprecedented national crisis.
The September 11 terrorist attacks had pushed the television media to stand
beside the government to a degree as never before seen. The September 11 terrorist
attacks on New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania are unique even in terms of
terrorism. Brigitte L. Nacos, in her book, Mass Mediated Terrorism: the Central Role of
the Media in Terrorism and Counterterrorism (2002), brought up an idea of how
terrorists have utilized media, especially television media, to help fulfill their evil plan. In
other words, terrorists use mass media as part of their battlefield against freedom and
democracy. The most obvious example is the “bin Laden tape.” After September 11,
Osama bin Laden, the suspected backstage person of the terrorist attacks, sent several
video recorded tapes to an Arabian television network named Al Jazeera. Through the
satellite broadcasting of Al Jazeera, the content of bin Laden’s tapes was revealed to the
world. In the tape, bin Laden sought to humiliate America and urge more attacks against
America. “While the (Bush) administration’s argument that these tapes were vehicles for
hidden messages was not credible, it was certainly true that these videos and their
transcripts contained terrorist propaganda.” Since then, a propaganda war began.
Approximately one month after September 11, on October 10, National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice asked the major U.S. television networks to edit videotaped statements
by Osama bin Laden and his followers rather than broadcast them live and in their
entirely. However, a real and direct counterattack of the bin Laden’s propaganda still
came from President Bush. From September 11 until the end of the year, George W. Bush
appeared more frequently than any other leader on television. Most of his earlier televised
speeches made in the days right after September 11 were focused on condemning
terrorism, reassuring the American people and praising the American people for their
Nacos, B.L., P55.
bravery and help. “Winning the cooperation and support of Arab and Islamic nations will
prove Mr. Bush’s greatest test.” On September 17, 2001, Bush made an important
televised speech “Islam is Peace” at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. On
television screen, people around the nation and world saw Bush, standing in front of
Islamic tapestry, surrounded by Muslims. Bush distinguished the true faith of Islam from
the face of terror and condemned and shunned any backlash against Muslim people.
Jonathan Alter (2002) said: “Truth is the best propaganda.” While listing the horror
record of these terrorists in name of Islam and showing respect to Muslims, Bush had
gained the upper hand in the propaganda battle on the television media. In this
propaganda war, American television networks rendered meritorious service by assisting
President Bush to win this war against terrorism.
Cummings, J. (2001). Bush Recruits World Leaders for Antiterror Alliance. The Wall Street Journal.
September 19, 2001. Vol.238. PA3.
Alter, J.,(2002). Truth: The Best Propaganda. Newsweek. March 4 , 2002. Vol.139.P29.
National crisis, unlike any other kind of crisis, has a devastating capability to
directly or indirectly affect almost any business in the nation that provides service to the
public. Whenever a national crisis occurs, mass media, especially television, often
become one of the first to be impacted. The television media are also among the first to
respond and deal with such special emergencies. Witnessing the development of the
technologies of mass communications and the growing experience of journalists, today
we have to redefine the television media’s role in a time of national crisis.
From the study of the television media of the 1963 Kennedy assassination, the
first televised national crisis, and of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, the latest
national crisis, we see the behaviors of the television media and the roles it played in
these two different national crises. The communication technologies in these two events
were one of the key factors in determining the roles television media could play in these
two catastrophes. During the first televised national crisis, the television medium was still
in its early stage of becoming the leader of mass media in American society. The
broadcast technologies in the early 1960s enabled people across the nation to relay and
receive information in a visual way they had never experienced before. Through the cable
and satellite technologies, they began to show their powers in the historic event. Cable
and satellite helped connect the nation and even the world in a united way that no one
could have ever foreseen. In other words, although these communication technologies
were in their early period of development, they made a national crisis not simply an event
of national significance. Instead, for the first time, they brought the national crisis onto a
world stage by disseminating the news around the globe. Also, due to the communication
technologies available at the time, the capability of the television media was limited. In
recalling the problem the news media were often facing when covering the Kennedy
tragedy and its aftermath, Elmer Lower, the former ABC News President, said: “Perhaps
the biggest problem…was to communicate rapidly enough to our newsmen in the field,
with no opportunity to plan, and with news breaking so fast, we could not always get in
touch with people who had to make decisions. We couldn’t always get news out to them
in time to get one of our newsmen to certain location.” Therefore, the fact that “not
enough reporting, oversimplified information and reporting things without context”
even seriously affected the television media’s basic function of disseminating public
information. Seconds after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, many people heard the first
piece of news from a radio broadcast, instead of from television news. The lack of
context in reporting also caused many people in the nation to blame Dallas for the death
of Kennedy for years. However, the television media were still growing up during the
first national crisis. From news anchor’s announcing the tragedy to the live coverage of
John Kennedy’s funeral, the nation was, for the first time, united by television to an
extent that the public had never experienced before. The concentrated fourday television
Mayo, J. P134.
Bob Huffaker, KRLDTV news anchor, in JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video), 1998, TX: The Sixth Floor
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See: Wes Wise: “Even ten years later, one person said in public that “mayor of city killed the President”
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coverage of the event gave the public a sense of stability and unity, which, therefore,
established television’s leadership role in the public during a time of national crisis.
More than thirty years later, on the day of September 11, 2001, the people around
the globe witnessed a series of terrorist attacks on the United States through their
televisions. The communication technologies today enable audiences all over the world to
get all kinds of information not only what they want, but also what they need. For
example, before September 11, 2001, none of the major television networks addressed
the roots of terrorism and antiAmerican sentiments. In other words, the American public
knew little about the world beyond the United States. However, following the terrorist
attacks, all the major television networks began to address those issues and focus on
foreign news. American public then started to have a chance to get some kind of context
Unlike the communication technologies in 1963, today, cable and satellite
technologies occupy a dominant position. On day of September 11, cable television still
kept informing New Yorkers after the broadcasting towers were knocked out in the
attacks. Across the nation, 50% of the public watched the roundtheclock news coverage
through cable television. More people around the world watched the live coverage of the
horror through satellite relay. However, the following three patterns, which appeared in
1963’s television media, were not only adopted but also strengthened by today’s
Nacos, B.L., P4546.
First, also the most important, keep the free flow of information by all means. To
realize this, the television medium may cancel all commercials and all previously
scheduled programming, adopt concentrated nonstop news coverage mode and share
information with other news networks as well as within the network.
Second, gather all kinds of information to have a comprehensive view of the
event. It also emphasizes the importance of information from the side of the nation’s
enemy to sketch out the context for the events.
Third, participate in the crisis management. It includes relief and rescue efforts
and other postdisaster efforts, such the propaganda and counterpropaganda war.
The events of September 11 have pushed the television media onto an
unprecedented new stage in regard to their roles of coping with the national crisis. First of
all, because today’s television medium has the ability of disseminating information
instantly, nonstop, and in visuals and words from any place to all parts of the globe, it
displayed greater initiative in the crisis relief and recovery efforts. For example, the fund
raising “Telethon” event and counseling services on television. Secondly, also because of
the television media’s above ability, the television media themselves could provide
convenient conditions for terrorists to spread their propaganda. The notorious bin Laden
tape is an example. A propaganda war against bin Laden’s further evil plans utilizing
mass media was carried on the television following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
American television broadcast and cable networks relayed the horror live and the
Nacos, B.L., P39.
American government’s policies to almost every nation so people around the world
clearly understood this America’s national crisis was also world crisis. In other words,
without the television media, America could not rally the international communities so
quickly and so successfully and win such wide support for its war on terrorism.
No one can foresee when and how the next national crisis would happen, or it
would happen in which kind of form. Television media would still have to deal with the
national crisis or any other kinds of crises in an instantaneous way. However, no matter
what would happen next, precaution and preparation are still the right things to do. The
lessons learned from the past experiences are the best preparations the mass media could
do for the unpredictable future. This is also the purpose of this study.
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