September 11 in the mind of American journalism

Jay Rosen

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    I live in New York. For me it is impossible to get outside this subject, since I was inside the event-speaking relatively, of course. The World Trade Center’s towers fell about 50 blocks from my office and home. To stand in Washington Square Park that day and watch the towers burn was to feel yourself being changed by a public event. In that perverse way intellectuals have, I remember thinking about the later consequences for my own thinking: “If I see �?ghter planes overhead, I’ll have to undo everything I know about.�? Twenty minutes later, the F-15s came. Here, I write about the mind of American journalism after September 11, but not because I have any special con�?dence in my judgment, which does not bene�?t from critical distance. I have no critical distance. For one thing, September 11 was the day I lost my daughter to the news. I hadn’t expected anything like it, but then that sentence, “I hadn’t expected anything like it,�? was said by almost everyone about that day. She was four years old at the time. By the time I got home, she had absorbed from television news images of destruction beyond what I had seen in my entire life. And they were real, local, in her big backyard. The same images that struck at her also traumatized her parents. But the TV stayed on. All routines-the stability of life-stopped. Sirens were there instead. The sheer genius of the terrorist strike as strike, its terrible efficiency and accuracy and reach-this is clearest to me when I think about my daughter. The twin towers were the �?rst civic structure she adored, her �?rst landmark. Growing up in lower Manhattan, she had a mental geography that depended on their luminous presence. The fact that they were “twin�? towers, identical, turned them into playful objects in a child’s imagination. Millions of moms and dads would say the same, which shows that al-Qaeda knew what it was doing. They got to her. Inside the reality-making machine of her developing imagination they dropped the Two Biggest Things in the World from the sky. In his 1990 lecture upon winning the Nobel Prize, the poet Octavio Paz recalls the day he lost his childhood to the news. It happened when an older child gave Paz.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationJournalism After September 11, Second Edition
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Electronic)9781136739842
    ISBN (Print)9780415460149
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities
    • General Social Sciences


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