What's up with playing 911 dispatches from Sept. 11?

A couple of nights ago, might have been on Fox news, they played some of the communication between the 911 dispatcher and the rescuers going to the scene. It seemed that the emphasis (of the newscaster) was on how calm everyone was and how well everyone did their jobs.
Now, I’m watching ABC world news w/ Peter Jennings, and earlier it was announced that they are going to play the 911 tapes from the WTC or something.

WHY do we need to hear this stuff? Yes, all the rescue workers are heroes. There’s no doubt about that, I don’t need to hear how “well” they did their jobs. Even if they had been screaming and panicking, they still would be heroes. I remember during the whole OJ Simpson trial, some of the networks played a 911 tape of one of the times that Nicole Brown Simpson called while OJ was beating on her. I don’t want to hear that stuff. It smacks of “tabloid” journalism. To me, hearing the 911 tapes from Sept. 11 will just bring back the pain that many people are trying to get over. I guess part of it is the fascination people have with tragedies, the “rubbernecking at the accident” kind of thing, and maybe some people think it will help people to understand more of what happened. I guess I’m just not one of them.

Just my 2 cents.

Hmm, my careful .02 is that, in a sense, this certainly does qualify as sensationalism and morbid rubbernecking, as you term it. Yet I think many of us who are not frankly into such gawking in general still found ourselves glued to the coverage of the incident in the early days, even though watching the towers fall for the 30th time didn’t show us anything new. My take would be that, in additon to the purely voyeristic aspect, about which I certainly have reservations, a legitmate purpose of the airing of such tapes is like that of the repeated film footage, namely to help people who are simply overwhelmed by the incomprehensibility of it all to get a little more grasp on it somehow. Every person you see interviewed says that the pictures on tv don’t begin to convey the reality of being at the site - easy to believe. Likewise, knowing what happened to the people doesn’t really make it any more “graspable” emotionally. Perhaps hearing such audio helps some people (and I don’t mean the simply ghoulish) to better conceive of the reality and helps it to sink in so that it can be dealt with emotionally.

As you said, nothing they broadcast, even if it were hysterical screaming, would change my opinion of the people involved, so I don’t think it particularly proves heroism or anything like that. But I can see some legitimate purpose to it, even though I will never condone ghoulish and morbid curiosity for its own sake (though we must sadly acknowledge that such cannot be completely eliminated, any more than we can eliminate the despicable scum who crawl out of the sewers to try to make a buck off of charity scams and the like). Like you, there are things I just don’t need to see or hear, and I’ve been using the “off” button on my remote. I don’t feel that demonstrates any callousness on my part, but I can also understand how such an insight might help at least some people to come to terms with what has happened. Like so many things, I certainly can’t condone it wholeheartedly (what if you are a relative of someone being referred to in that audio?), but neither can I condemn it absolutely. As I said, just my .02, FWIW.

(And please, don’t get me started on the Nicole Brown tapes we all heard so relentlessly…)

Two points in opposition.

  1. The one time I heard the tapes (on the normally sensationalistic Ch. 9 news here), they didn’t play them as nastily as they could have. For example, they didn’t say “this next bit is FROM A FIREFIGHTER THAT DIED!!”, which I normally wouldn’t put past them. In fact, the only voice identified by name was from a survivor who was temporarily trapped;

  2. While I’m very aware of the risks of abuse, if something is a legitimate news story, I’m all in favor of letting the people hear/see the raw data and letting them come to their own conclusions, without slant from the news media. So, in theory at least, releasing the 911 tapes is a good thing.


My first reaction when they played the tape on NBC Nightly News, was disgust. Not because of the content, but the reason behind playing them. I though, “Oh here they go again”, because for the past year (at least), I’ve noticed that NBC has been leaning toward sensationalism. Then I heard it on the Today Show, thinking the same thing. I really don’t understand the purpose of releasing the tapes. Was it to pull at our heartstrings, because to me, it just made me cringe. I’m sure the families of the victims don’t want to relive it in such vivid detail.

I don’t think they SHOULDN’T be played–it’s a free country–but have some respect for what people went through that day and don’t exploit their fear for Christsake.

I’m watching Peter Jennings from now on.