Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 coverage on CNN Pipeline

Yesterday when I got to work I went to the CNN site. They have a streaming video section called Pipeline that they've been advertising for a few months. Yesterday they ran their coverage of 9/11 on Pipeline at the exact moment it happened.

It was interesting... and a little eerie. I was too late getting to work to see the second aircraft plunge into the World Trade Center. That's an iconic moment in television news, much like the Challenger disaster, where something horrific happened right on camera. Of course there was no immediate footage of the first aircraft hitting the first tower, but CNN had cameras showing the first tower when the second aircraft hit.

I was in time to see their coverage leading up to the Pentagon hit and the collapse of the towers. I knew, from Wikipedia, the exact moments of these events. You can tell the moment the newsroom received information about the Pentagon. It was about a minute after the event, when all of a sudden the chatter in the background increased considerably. A minute after that they were discussing Washington, and they had footage of smoke in Washington. There was an erroneous report of a fire on the Washington Mall. Aaron Brown, who was fired from CNN last year, was talking to someone in Washington when the first tower collapsed. He pulled back to footage of the tower when he could. It was all fascinating and strange until the second tower fell. At that point I started to get a big lump in my throat. The collapse happened live, after showing some footage of the first tower falling. Even though I knew the exact minute of the collapse, it was still shocking and wrenching.

A couple of days ago Alana posted a comment to my entry about television news. She mentioned 9/11. Seeing the repeat of the coverage displayed that there is room for television news. Everything Alana said about the full impact of the event is true. When you tie that to the Hurricane Katrina coverage, where the administration was saying one thing and you could see on television something completely different, I am firmly convinced that television is the media for large, immediate stories like disasters. It's the vast majority of stories that require analysis and depth that isn't handled well with television.

Pipeline gave me a glimpse of what Internet news could be, too. On 9/11 I was working for a newspaper in Toronto (the Toronto Star, the largest in Canada and one of the largest in North America). The only access I had to the disaster was on the Internet. While our paper was proud of the fact that our servers did not crash under the load that day, the load times were incredibly long. It was just not feasible to see the event unfold in real time on the Internet. CNN's Pipeline showed that today the technology is there, provided of course that the servers can still handle a huge load in the event of a disaster.

Internet coverage has the capability of combining images with the analysis found in print. It remains to be seen if it lives up to that capability.

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