The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were a defining moment in American history. They remain at the forefront of many Americans’ thoughts, so I wasn’t surprised to field quite a bit of criticism from readers who felt The Kansas City Star didn’t note them appropriately on their anniversary this year.
In that day’s print edition, there was a pointer at the top of Page A-1 to a column by Vahe Gregorian at the top of the Sports Daily front page. It was about Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who no longer celebrates his birthday coinciding with that infamous act.
There was also a related story that day on Page A-4 about a Florida man who was arrested and charged with encouraging another man to bomb a Kansas City commemoration of the attacks. Michael Gerson’s column in the Opinion section looked at politics in a post-9/11 world as well.
Readers who contacted me were looking for something different. More than one told me those mentions amounted to not even noting the anniversary at all in their minds. One said the paper should have included a front-page historical account of the day, with a comprehensive look at its aftermath.
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I understand why these critics were disappointed. I would imagine at least some were happier at the Sept. 12 front page, where the centerpiece photo showed people paying their respects at the 9/11 Memorial in Overland Park. A story on Page A-3 that day also made note of other observances around the nation.
The Sept. 11 attacks are far from the only significant national event that readers expect to see in The Star. Those of you who have followed my columns through the years may recall that I’ve brought this topic up before concerning other dates such as D-Day.
In my opinion, the Moustakas birthday column was an interesting and novel entry into the topic for the day of the anniversary. After all, a morning newspaper is by definition written, edited and designed the night before. That means none of the actual observations have yet taken place, and couldn’t possibly be covered as news.
The question is how much is enough, and when would it cross the line into too much? Reasonable people can agree to disagree on that subjective call.
Don’t drop TV details
A caller last Wednesday noted a glaring omission from a story on the front page that morning.
“You have this big story about tonight’s Republican debates, which is fine,” she said.
“But why don’t you include the listings for where we can watch it on TV? You always used to do that, and I’m missing it here.”
She’s right that The Star has generally included details such as this with almost all news coverage about TV programs for years. The same goes for other similar subjects: performing arts, community events or anything else where readers may understandably want to participate. It is a great reader utility.
True, people could always look up this information themselves — but they shouldn’t have to. If editors need to make trims to save always-precious newsprint space, they should look elsewhere.
To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 weekday mornings or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org