Our year-end appeal is to those who package the news we all depend upon: Examine the quality of what you are delivering to the people. Would a milkman deposit bottles of sour milk on America’s stoops? Or would a baker leave moldy bread? As we have pointed out at the Twin Towers Alliance, “The Elements of Journalism,” which was first published in 2001, is recognized as the industry bible. It asks, “What is journalism for?” and presents working principles for a responsible press.
But all those journalistic principles were ignored by the press when it came to covering the years of political machinations at Ground Zero. The WTC we see today — and don’t see — is the by-product of a media that withheld vital information from the public and continues to restrict what the public may know, even though the new WTC is on public land and is being developed with massive public funding. It’s hard to believe.
The first news link below is a perfect example of that dysfunction. A coalition of 9/11 families have been made to jump through hoops in an effort to establish how each of the victims’ families feels about depositing the unidentified remains in the 9/11 Museum. The calamitous flooding at Ground Zero during Superstorm Sandy highlighted the Museum’s callousness and incompetence.
The Twin Towers Journal posted numerous links over the summer to articles expressing great frustration because the dispute between the Port Authority and the Memorial Foundation would keep the Museum from opening “on time.” In retrospect, it is terrible to think what would have been washed away if it had! Putting the remains (or anything else) at bedrock in a flood zone was always reckless, but to continue on that course now amounts to depraved indifference. What is driving such intransigence?
If the protection that officials think they can provide for the priceless artifacts is nevertheless breached one day, knowing ahead of time what is at stake, the Foundation officials would be criminally negligent. The Memorial Foundation would be liable for failing to prevent the preventable. Officials claim that the damage was the result of not having a roof on other parts of the construction site — but buildings all over the flood zone that were closed to the elements also flooded. A foundation that receives more than half its proceeds from the public does not have the right to court disaster.
The matter should be front-page news, as should so many of the other decisions about the site, which were made without respect for public input or common sense. What could be a better definition of “doomed” than feeling powerless to prevent that which could easily be prevented? It is high time for those members of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, who first formulated the “Elements of Journalism,” to take their profession to task.
Editorialists are quick to call for regulating every aspect of our lives, but who is upholding the media’s standards? One could not find a better casebook study of corruption and malpractice than by looking into how the World Trade Center debate was stifled and the facts were selectively presented. The media failed the American people at Ground Zero.
Even with the same self-serving politicians, the spotlight of a responsible media would have produced a restored skyline and a respectful memorial years ago — long before the 2008 financial collapse. And there would have been no toll-gouging at the bridges and tunnels, because the Port Authority would not be on the hook at Ground Zero for at least $7.5 billion of public money that never had to be spent. Our watchdog press was oblivious to the damage that was being done by so many in the profession, who couldn’t be bothered to be bothered. We hope that those who really are concerned journalists will look at all the evidence and resolve to make amends.