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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Book Review #43: December 25, 2002

"Journalism After September 11"

edited by Barbie Zelizer and Stuart Allan

Reviewed by Takahiro Miyao

Title: Journalism After September 11
Editors: Barbie Zelizer and Stuart Allan
Publisher: Routledge
Date/Time: 2002
Pages: English text 268 pages (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-415-28800-2


It might be said that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, have changed how we view the world. Since journalism has a lot to do with how we view the world, it is interesting to examine the role and effect of journalism on the terrorist incident. This volume attempts to do exactly that.

Especially noteworthy is a chapter dealing with online news of September 11, where the author, Stuart Allan of the University of the West of England, examines what role online journalists played with regard to the news coverage of the incident. This is interesting because it has been reported that the Internet was the only backbone that was not interrupted by the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and one might infer that online journalism should have played a significant role in covering the unexpected tragedy.

In this chapter, "Reweaving the Internet," the author points out the following:

1. Covering the crisis, the roles and experiences of Internet news and message sites are mixed at best, since many of such sites broke down due to unusually heavy traffic, while the role of some websites such as survivor registries was extremely valuable from the social viewpoint, although they had to cope with heavy demand.

2. Television and online journalism seem to have had different roles: While television was able to transmit the most current information on the main incident, online media served as personal journalism conveying eyewitness accounts, personal photos, and in some cases videos of the disasters.

3. As time passed, the contributions to personal journalism, or "citizen-produced coverage," came from diverse locations, leading to a somewhat chaotic situation. Online chats became very popular and were hosted by many news sites, including major news organizations such as

4. The author concludes "by drawing upon the vast array of information sources available across the Web, online news sites can provide their readers with background details or context to an extent unmatched by any other news medium." These sites, including foreign sites, started to offer alternative perspectives, which are somewhat different from major news media. However, there are some commentators who maintain that online news failed to "live up to its potential, while television re-asserted its status as the world’s foremost news source" (Tim Cavanaugh). In other words, there is not yet a clear cut conclusion as to what role online journalism played with regard to the terrorist incident and also what role it is likely to play in the future vis-à-vis traditional journalism like television.

The related reference:
Prometheus: Special Issue: Communications on September 11th (August 2002)

The publisher’s website for this volume is as follows:
Almost a year on from 9/11, life goes on, but the attacks and the response to them have changed things in many different ways.
From anxiety about civil liberties vs national security to soul-searching about the very nature of democracy, this collection shows how the fallout from 9/11 continues to be reflected in our media….
Journalism After September 11 offers an unparalleled overview of the ways in which the events of September 11 continue to resonate in powerful, yet sometimes unexpected ways. For many journalists, the crisis has completely changed their sense of the world around them. Familiar notions of have been shaken to their foundations, been completely debunked, or worse, demonised to the point of censorship.
As Nation publisher Victor Navasky notes in his foreword, there were a number of ideological assumptions underpinning most reportage of the events surrounding September 11. These included beliefs such as

  • this was a time for rallying around the flag; questioning this meant giving aid and support to the enemy
  • any attempt to link the events of September 11 to the US's previous role in the Middle East or elsewhere was unpatriotic and unworthy
  • the demonisation of the Muslim world throughout the media, from Hollywood blockbusters to primetime soaps to sober magazine articles was entirely justified.

Journalism After September 11 examines how the traumatic attacks of that day continue to transform the nature of journalism, particularly in the Unites States and Britain. The contributors, an internationally respected group of seasoned journalists and academics, raise vitally important questions regarding what journalism can and should look like today. In providing the answers, they address topics such as: journalism and public life at a time of crisis; broadsheet and tabloid newspaper coverage of the attacks; the role of sources in shaping the news; reporting by global news media; Western representations of Islam; news photography and trauma; the emotional well-being of reporters; online journalism; as well as a host of pertinent issues around news, democracy and citizenship.

What does it mean to be a journalist?
What is the best way to practice journalism?
What the can public expect of journalists in the name of democracy?

'This is not a book just for journalists but for everyone concerned about democracy, freedom of speech and our future. Distinguished contributors from all over the English-speaking world tackle the crucial question: what did the media's reaction to 11 September tell us about modern media itself?' Phillip Knightley, author of The First Casualty

Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Term Chair of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Stuart Allan is a Reader in the School of Cultural Studies, University of the West of England, Bristol.

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