Not Remembering 9-11

The 10th Year Anniversary

I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to see any of it. I’m planning to be away from the city. I’m so glad 9-11 is on a Sunday so I can get the family out of what I expect will be a relentless media frenzy. I don’t want to have a TV on. I want to walk in the woods.

The wound is still very fresh. Some time I may write about it. I may write about the beautiful morning, how I had voted that morning, saw a police officer’s face — her face as if in close up — her worried face as she listened to a report. She was in a squad car, I was crossing Broadway with the kids. I forgot it. Then walking towards Central Park with my friend, J., how I got an urgent messages my sister on my cell phone but I had to call from a pay phone because my cell suddenly didn’t work, how we walked a little ways in Central Park then saw all the business people entering Central Park from 59th Street, how we knew something was deeply wrong, all these people in business attire walking into the park, how I grabbed my daughters from daycare, how I found my son’s pre-K class at the public school – with the principal standing with everyone in the hallway holding hands and praying with the kids — telling them that we love our families, our schools, our country. How we began to walk home, saw a grey cloud in the sky, south. Too close to be the WTC, we figured it was the Empire State Building. As we walked I insisted we avoid Lincoln Center, it could be a target. How we began to see all these people on the promenade in Riverside Park walking from downtown covered in dust, business suits and hair covered in grey, all grey. How we smelled the burning in the middle of the night. How we left the city and still past Albany, I could hear sirens. Chris said there were no sirens. I heard sirens on and off the whole way up to the Adirondacks.

Someday I will write about this. But not now. I dread the 10-year commemoration of 9-11. This year, I refuse to be traumatized again with news replaying images I don’t want to see.

Other years, on the anniversary of 9-11, the city was somber, especially the first couple of years. There was quiet. Especially in the morning. One year, I was walking down my block. A construction worker was sitting on the brownstone steps. It was the time of quiet and of remembrance. Our eyes locked. We looked at each other and we shared some sadness. He nodded at me. He knew. He knew and I knew. We didn’t want to – we didn’t need to – relive the whole thing. We didn’t need to write about it. Talk about it.

This year I might be in the Adirondacks far from a TV. I might go to church or maybe I’ll go to the church of walking in the woods. The Adirondack mountains will look lovely then. A long walk will do me good – seeing the colors of the pine trees, the splotched orange, the red leaves afire. 

I know the day is months away. Here I am the first weekend of April. I don’t want to wish away my spring, summer, fall dreading that September weekend. But it calms me to know I don’t have to be in the city.

At the time I knew that time would heal me from the trauma. I take comfort in the passage of time. I don’t take comfort in anniversaries. Continue reading “Not Remembering 9-11”

Gender Bias in the News

One on-going topic at the Religion Communication Congress 2010 is: What makes for a good religion story?

 Manya Brachear, religion reporter at the Chicago Tribune, answered this question in a provocative workshop. She is looking for “emotionally engaging stories.” To find them, she sometimes looks at Google’s Hot Trends. She eavesdrops on what she calls the “national conversation.”

But perhaps the national conversation as determined by the Tribune, the New York Times or Google is not the national conversation that the average Josephine is engaged in. I get the feeling that emotionally engaging stories told by the Average Joe are more impressive than the very same stories told by the Average Jo.

Ms. Brachear described one of her own favorite stories for the Tribune, a story she wrote about Rev. Phil Blackwell of a Chicago United Methodist Church who visited his ageing high school teacher.

Mitch Albom, in his opening address at the Religion Communication Congress, spoke of visiting his former rabbi and helping repair a church in Detroit.

I don’t deny the awesomeness of these men for visiting these awesome people and doing these awesome things. I do think their stories are more appealing to the mainstream because they are about men.

Women, in all their awesomeness, are doing the very same things —  visiting former teachers and helping rebuild churches. But I am not hearing their stories. Those are more ordinary examples of compassion.

I think we need to move the national conversation to one that includes ordinary woman’s stories and women’s issues. What are women’s issues? Women care about compassion, poverty, justice, equality and systemic change. Systemic change is not very sexy. Not as sexy as Tiger Woods’ infidelity, of which I am on record as not being at all interested in. I am not a part of that national conversation.

Thursday’s workshop from the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 asked Who Makes the News? Pretty eye-opening. In mainstream media, women’s stories are told 24% of the time as opposed to men’s. Looking for an expert on TV? 80% likely you’ll find a man, unless you’re asking in general for a public opinion then perhaps it’s 50% likely to be a woman.

How do writers and editors bring women’s voices into the mainstream so that the stories are more equitably the stories of all of humanity? We can start by just realizing that we have to represent when we write our stories and choose the issues that headline our news. Just engaging in this dialogue and asking these questions, I think, will move us into a new era of  personal, engaging, and good stories. Not just for women, but for everyone!

How We Get Our News

I sent this email to about a dozen colleagues.

I like following trends at the Pew Research Center.

If you get a little time – 20 mins. – it’s worth it to watch this – Tom Rosenstiel on “The Future of News” from NPR.

He says a lot of what I’ve been thinking about journalism. It’s especially relevant for those of us doing media for the United Methodist Church. 

News is immediate, brief, interactive, unbundled, diffuse, browsed, international, community-based.