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Newspapers approach attack anniversary with care, introspection
By Lisa Singhania, Associated Press
This Sept. 11, the Daily American of Somerset, Pa., will have a more subdued and introspective tone than it did a year ago, when one hijacked plane crashed in the countryside about 10 miles from its offices.
Back then, over the subsequent days, stories of death and destruction dominated its pages. "There was chaos and numbness at the tragedy," said reporter Vicki Rock.
"Now we're focusing more on the people who were heroes and what's happened since then," she said. "It's more of a we-have-to-overcome-this-now feeling. Now is the time to honor people and get past the feeling of tragedy."
Across the country, newspapers are preparing to mark the first anniversary of the day that terrorists hijacked three airliners and rammed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane, believed headed for the Washington, D.C., area, crashed in rural Pennsylvania. An estimated 3,062 died, including the 19 hijackers.
Newspapers in areas directly affected by the attacks -- New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania -- are expected to devote the most resources to covering the anniversary.
The Daily American is planning a commemorative book focusing on the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, while Newsday in suburban New York City will offer a 76-page magazine about the victims the weekend before the anniversary. The Washington Post plans a separate section on each of five days starting Sunday.
The Wall Street Journal, whose downtown offices were in the shadow of the World Trade Center and had to be evacuated, and The New York Times declined to provide specific coverage plans, but the papers are already running articles with Sept. 11 themes.
Editors everywhere say the challenge is to cover a date that now has historic significance without being maudlin or otherwise overbearing.
"I have heard from a number of readers saying that they would like something particularly inspirational," said Chrysti Shain, day city editor at The Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, N.C., which plans special sections on Sept. 8 and Sept. 11. "I think people are hungry to read some of the remembrance stories, the where-are-they-now stories, the New York-and-Washington-recover stories."
Sue Hale, executive editor of The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995, killing 168 people, said it's important to focus on the future.
"You have to offer readers not just a rehash of the actual event but a look forward and how our lives have changed, and what effect those changes have had and are going to have," she said. "After our first anniversary, we talked to some of the survivors about what they were doing with their lives ... and how it's OK to get counseling and therapy. That approach moved the story forward."
Her newspaper will start a special series on the terrorist attacks on Sept. 8, with stories running throughout the week.
Newspapers are also being careful about the photos and illustrations they use, for fear of being too graphic.
"The images from that day, while they may be part of our package, they're not going to be significant parts of our coverage," said Tom Eblen, managing editor of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. "This is about how that event changed the country and what has happened since then, and where we're going from there."
The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, will run a full-page cartoon by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Maus" and "Maus II," illustrated books about the Holocaust. The strip, scheduled to run in eight monthly installments, recounts Spiegelman's experiences and thoughts. He was in New York when the planes hit; his daughter attended a school near the trade center, and he spent the morning of the attacks searching for her.
The Chicago Tribune will insert into its Sept. 8 edition a CD-ROM featuring photos, articles and video related to the attacks.
Editors say readers want to express their feelings about Sept. 11. The Herald-Leader received more than 80 responses when it asked its readership to describe the impact of Sept. 11 on them. The Houston Chronicle received more than 400 answers to a similar request.
Chronicle readers will open their Sunday paper to find the front page -- along with the lifestyle, opinion, travel, business and other sections in the newspaper -- discussing the effects of the attacks on readers' lives.
"Then on Wednesday we will have a special 16-page section. We invited a group of well-known Texas writers to write 500-word essays ... including Molly Ivins and Liz Carpenter," said managing editor Tommy Miller. "The title of our section is 'Our Changed World."'
Advertising is likely to be relatively scarce, since newspapers and advertisers are reluctant to appear that they are capitalizing on a tragedy.
The Charlotte Observer's special sections will be ad-free. The Oklahoman hopes to exclude advertising from its anniversary pages, as does the Herald-Leader. The Chronicle expects its special section to have one ad at the most, and it likely will be in the form of a tribute. The Daily American is donating a portion of the proceeds from its commemorative book, which contains ads, to a memorial fund.
"Traditional advertising will not be very evident," said John Kimball, chief marketing officer at Newspaper Association of America. "There will certainly be some in-memoriam types of ads that run ... but I don't know of anybody that is doing anything that smacks of commercialism."