September 11 Memorial lights
September 11 Memorial lights

It is hard to believe that eight years have passed since terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre and forever changed society.

I don’t think any of us will ever forget where we were as the tragedy unfolded. I can still remember crowding around the TV with family and friends, listening to the horror in the voices of the American broadcasters as well the people on the streets who were – unbeknown to anyone – emerging as a new breed of citizen journalists.

Since the attacks on September 11, we’ve seen a rise in citizen journalism. Everyone with an iPhone, Blackberry, or camera phone can disseminate information about a major event within minutes if not seconds.

While our thoughts are with the families and friends of the people who lost their lives, we’ve been talking about how communication has changed in the past eight years, particularly, the abundance of information we now demand and expect.

It’s remarkable how quickly news travelled in the hours following the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Within minutes, people around the world were watching the tragedy unfold. In Australia, even though it was late at night in this globally connected world we all knew in an instant.

Imagine what would have happened if Twitter was around eight years ago. How quickly the news and heart-wrenching stories would have spread, given the size of people’s social media networks nowadays.

In the months following the attack, there were many articles about how people communicated on the day including an interesting article about the use of BlackBerry messages. One couple’s emails provide a glimpse of what Twitter may have looked like.

All this talk of Twitter has made us question whether constant access to information has changed the way we deal with situations like 9/11. Had 9/11 happened today, would we have talked about the attacks for so long? The answer is probably yes, as this tragic event had major and long lasting repercussions such as renewed air travel regulation.

On a slightly different tangent – but one we just couldn’t leave alone – we’ve been talking about the campaigns about national security that followed 9/11. Surely you remember those advertisements with Steve Liebmann encouraging us to “be alert, but not alarmed”. Some could argue there was a bit of paranoia mongering going on, but has this made society better informed about the world around them?

The other interesting thought is around the role of communication in the healing process following events like 9/11. Communication, particularly social media networks like Twitter, will continue to play an important role in rebuilding communities following tragedy. One way communication and the internet can play a role is by allowing people to express their feelings through online condolence books.

In a review essay, Journalism After 9/11, Andria Dunkin described journalism’s role in the months and years after the attacks.

“Journalism created a strong sense of community in the immediate aftermath of September 11, with headlines encouraging the nation to unite against the terrorists and never to allow another attack to take place,” she wrote.

“Unification and community were very important factors in the healing process, and journalism produced news articles and broadcasts that emphasized those themes.”

Have a lovely weekend,
the c word