9/11 – CNN – and the new medium for history

September 12, 2006

I am writing this from our Nations Capital. I have travelled here today to deliver some training to the National Park Service on our product CommonSpot CMS. Today was a weird day and I was not to keen on travelling (especially flying to D.C). I decided to fly out of Providence instead of Boston (figuring that if anything was going to happen today it would happen out of a major city). This is not what I want to talk about (everything went fine and I am here safely). What I want to talk about is an extension on a previous post I made about the emergence of this new media – Internet Video. I guess it is not really “new”, but it sure is becoming popular.

Sites like ESPN and MSNBC.com have had video on their site for a long time. Way before Google Video, YouTube and the many others (check out http://www.break.com). But over the course of the last 9 months or so, all of the major news carriers have been offering supplemental (and sometimes primary) content in the form of Video. Some sites offer this as a free service while most are offering two flavors – the free version (small, short video’s) and a premium version (in-depth productions with large screen resolutions and full commentary – similar to a regular broad cast). It seemed to me to happen almost overnight and all kind of launched at the peak of Google Videos’ popularity (recently usurped by YouTube’s extraordinary growth). What does this all mean?

Well today I take this conversation a bit further. Since this is the anniversary of 9/11 I will add another perspective to this and talk about the Internet as an archive as general. If you read CNN.com at all you would have noticed that their front page was plastered with links to two video segments (each over an hour long) called “9/11/01 As it Happened”. The videos are actual videos uncut from the morning of 9/11. Amazing footage of what is probably one of the single most defining moments in US History (next to the signing of the Declaration of Independence). We were glued to our seats at work (or at home) as this amazing attack unfolded right before our eyes. And this video spared no details. Even catching one of the planes flying right into the trade center building LIVE.

What you received that day was not only the events as they happened but also a new emerging portrayal of news. CNN was the first to cover the attacks by using a local New York Affiliate. The Affiliate was broad-casted around the world and was essentially put on the spot with little to no information about the event. Over the course of the morning CNN pieced together the events by tapping into many resources including
– Eye witnesses
– Local news crews
– Political and Social Servants

Anything they could get their hands on. Simultaneously, all of the world was taken for this amazing ride as the news casters, torn between their feelings about the events and their own fixation on the delivery of this content as it happened, unravelled a puzzle of terror.

Education as you know it has changed
This topic enlightens my on another subject (which is really what I want to talk about), which is education. As I think about my two son’s future and what they may learn of this event (and others). I can’t help but think about how this new media will provide more insight into these events then ever before. No more “microfiche”, no more “microfilm” – just point click and watch.

Think of a history class 15 years from now – how will it change. Video vs. Reading. Surely there will still be books. Surely some information will have to be discovered the old fashioned way. I am sure this is happening now but imagine a wiley History teacher. Say someone that is currently in the 7th grade and has experienced this first hand having grown up in the Instant Messaging age. What will she do to explain this phenomenal event to her 8th grade history class. Think of all the resources she will have to arm her students with the truth.

Think of all of the points of view she will be able to offer
– Professional Video from news casts
– Personal home videos shot from across town in nearby high rise apartment buildings (search google and you will be amazed)
– Blogs and Wiki’s
– Prepared digital content of the findings: Open-Content projects like “Complete 911 Timeline” – certainly subject-able but contains valid sources.

Combine all of this with some of the raw footage that can easily express the emotions of everyday people as the tragedy was happening.

Here are a few other events “caught on film” that are worth noting (none having quite the rich resources of the 9/11 tragedy):
– Walking on the Moon
– Assassination of Kennedy
– Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia Tragedies
– Waco (watched an excellent Documentary on this on the Documentary Channel – worth visiting).

I find this time in life to be the most exciting time for information convergence. All mediums coming together to allow everyone with a computer ($100 dollar laptops) to explore.

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One Response to “9/11 – CNN – and the new medium for history”

  1. mikeinmanila Says:

    Very true… even my job as freelance producer and reporter has changed completely…
    My dream though would be the day when freelancers like myself could have our own documentary and news websites specific to our reports supported by advertising kind of like pro-blogging sites.

    But with news reports, documentary material, and, other topics – keeping our reports out of the influence of huge corporations and allowing reports of the news independently.

    Shame there’s no funding for these kind of things. You can’t go to bank and say
    “Hey – I’m a journalist with a good track record and a bunch of awards- I want to go independent-web journalism. Sigh- no one is funding it yet… but maybe someday

    A few of us banded together and founded this Independent news site called http://www.fyitv.net tell us what you think. I hope it becomes a model for other journalists and broadcasters to the work that can be done.


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