Twin Cities journalists discuss coverage of terrorism, Sept. 11

by Abdel Shakur

As Americans edge back to normalcy in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, journalists have taken on a significant burden to give both an accurate and fair account of the news.

Representatives from the Twin Cities journalism community discussed the effect of the attacks on local and national media at a public forum Monday night at Cowles Auditorium.

“This has just been a blur for a lot of media people who try to cover a story that has been so encompassing and complicated,” said Vicki Gowler, managing editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Gowler said she saw news coverage following the attacks as an opportunity to talk about subjects that ordinarily wouldn’t receive much attention.

“We can try and tell the how and why to a country that just woke up and realized that these areas of the world really do have an impact on them,” she said.

Jane Kirtley, a University media ethics professor, said although she was satisfied with the breaking news coverage after the attack, she has been troubled by coverage since.

Kirtley said that she is concerned with media coverage, which she says has not given a lot of attention to federal public policy that will restrict American civil liberties.

“A lot is happening in Washington right now. And I’m not talking about the anthrax outbreak,” she said.

Audience members were allowed to ask the forum participants questions in the latter half of the program.

Star Tribune Executive Editor Tim McGuire answered questions about a controversial article in his newspaper reporting that members of the Twin Cities Somali community might have donated money to a terrorist-linked organization.

“Have you ever thought about the backlash felt by the Somali community?” said one audience member.

McGuire said the backlash felt by the Somali community had started in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and that there was not a clear link between the article and instances of verbal and physical assault on Somalis.

McGuire said reaction he received from the report has been mixed and that a positive consequence of the report was that it let people know to stop donating to a group many thought of as a charitable organization.