We talk a lot in this magazine about the shortcomings of our profession – the ethical lapses, the growing public mistrust of the media, and the increasing influence of profits on the news. But when tragedy hit our nation on Sept. 11, journalists stepped up and did what they do best – they delivered the news. While most people found themselves unable to do anything but gape at the horror unfolding on their television screens, journalists across the country were planning their coverage for the next hour, the next day, the next week. Profits took a backseat as networks ran days of uninterrupted coverage. Newspapers printed advertisement-free special editions the day of the attack. Online news sites removed their graphics and regular banner ads to accommodate the giant surge of Internet traffic. In the weeks since Sept. 11, we’ve heard countless stories of those affected by the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. We’ve heard from family members who lost loved ones. We’ve read heart-stopping accounts from people who made it out alive. We’ve heard all these stories through the journalists that tell them, but we’ve heard surprisingly little about what effects this has had on the journalists themselves. Journalists who witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center towers had little time to personally react, because they had to get back to their newsrooms to write the story. Television journalists were expected to remain composed and deliver updates around the clock. In newsrooms across the country, planned story budgets were scrapped as reporters scrambled to adapt their coverage. It wasn’t until days later, in some cases, that many journalists were able to digest what had happened on a truly personal level. On Page 7, our cover piece tells the stories of a few of those journalists. It explores how many reporters make it through the trauma of being so close to tragedy, and it looks at what newsrooms are doing to help their employees cope. Though we hate to admit it, journalists are a particularly vulnerable group. We’re as human as anyone else, and our jobs often lead us into situations that test our ability to deal with difficult situations. As I’ve watched the coverage of the Sept. 11 tragedy unfold, I’ve been amazed at the work of the journalists behind that coverage. At a time when most of us were feeling too overwhelmed to think, the journalists put their emotions – and sometimes even their safety – on hold to deliver the story. I hope that we can learn from the strength that they’ve shown. And I hope that they will find time away from the deadlines and breaking news to let down their protective guard and grieve.
Jeff Mohl is the editor of Quill.