9/11 Newspaper coverage

Curator's Note

A national survey conducted in late 2001 determined that 67% of respondents stated that newspapers had been a “useful source” for information on September 11 (Stempel and Hargrove 55).  Additionally, the use of daily newspapers had increased from 55% to 61% among respondents following the events.

Yesterday, on 9/11/19, I purchased both The Boston Globe and The New York Times newspapers again to study how the 9/11 narrative was told this year. Since 2002, I have analyzed each anniversary edition of both, The Boston Globe and The New York Times to understand how media may shape our memory and viewpoint. The above video intends for you to explore newspaper representation of 9/11/01, aiming to be conscious of your reactions to the presented facts and connections to your individual memory.

You may have noticed that I have used several ways to refer to 11 September 2001 already. This is intentional. The media has used various words and phrases to refer to that day in history. Some of them became a standard reference while others faded away. The above video may make you realize why you use some terms more than others.

I live in Boston, where the two planes that were flown into the World Trade Center originated. I have my own personal memories of that day—where I was and what I was doing. Over the years, I have made additional memories related to that day by speaking with people who lost loved ones. However, all these personal memories have been framed within the larger social frame. Jeffrey Orlick summarized Maurice Halbwachs—the late French philosopher and sociologist—explaining that while

memory is carried largely by individuals (…), even the most primally individual memories are socially framed and that, thus, at the limit, the very distinction between individual and social memory is problematic and that memory is no mere byproduct of group existence but is its very lifeblood. (6)

The memory of 9/11/01 is part of the United States of America’s lifeblood, and newspapers (as just one example of media) have framed, told, and continue to showcase part of this country’s narrative in regards to this moment in its history. Ask yourself, how similar is your recollection of happenings and story angles to that presented in the newspapers?





Works Cited

Monahan, Brian A.  The Shock of the News—Media Coverage and the Making of 9/11.  New York: New York University Press, 2010.

Orlick J (2007) The Politics of Regret – On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility. New York: Routledge.

September 11, 2001 - A Collection of Newspaper Front Pages Selected by the Poynter Institute. Kansas City: Andrews McMell Publishing, 2001.

Stempel III, Guido H. and Thomas Hargrove.  “Newspapers Played Major Role in Terrorism Coverage.”  Newspaper Research Journal.  Vol. 25, Nr. 1, Winter 2003.

The Boston Globe. 12 September 2001 1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2002  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2003  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2006  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2008  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2009  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2011  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2012  1st ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2018  1st ed.: A1. Print.

The New York Times. 12 September 2001  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2002  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2003  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2004  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2005  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2006  New England ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2008  New England ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2009  New England ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2010  late ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2011  New England ed.: A1. Print.

---. 11 September 2012  New England ed.: A1-A3, A17. Print.

---. 11 September 2018  New England ed.: A1. Print.

Zwicker, Barry. Towers of Deception – The Media Cover-up of 9/11. Canada: New Society Publishers, 2006.


Monika, thanks for doing this archival work to construct a record of front pages.  Until you mentioned it, I hadn't noticed the use of "that day" as a common rhetorical practice.  Curious your thoughts about that descriptor (or non-descriptor) of the event ... 

I think 'the event' was another phrase that was needed originally simply for variation (to not constantly say 'the attack',...). It was also neutral/objective term. Compared with 'that day' it permits less meaning-making though. What I'm trying to say is that 'event' is such a commonly used word that in a society it cannot have meaning for just one event.

I am reminded of Slavoj Zizek's thoughts on a symbol. That any symbol has to be an "empty container" that can be filled with any meaning. "That day" permits this. 'The day' or 'a day' are general references similar to 'the event' that are so generic and used in daily life that it is difficult for a society to have a shared 'special meaning' for the words. "That" in "that day" marks the 'day' as something special already. Resulting, it has the possibility to gain the meaning to stand (in) for 9/11/01.

9/11 is arguably the most powerful symbol that has arisen out of 9/11/01 coverage. The font permits the '1's to look like the World Trade Center,...

Thank you for sharing this collection and analysis of the coverage of 9/11. To be honest, the most striking thing for me was the visceral response I had to the collection. The choice to deprioritize coverage of this attack on "non-significant anniversaries" rocked me away from logical analysis. This may be indicate that the wounds haven't healed over for me. In some respects, the sting is greater when the publication referenced is the NYT.

Phrases like "that day" and "the event", to me, are euphemisms. They dilute the story down and deprioritize it. Anecdotally, my 12 year old twins came home from middle school in rural Pennsylvania yesterday. I asked if there was any discussion or instruction today about September 11th? Their reply is that there was none. They talked about that in Elementary School.

This is ponderous considering that the arrival of adolescence might provide the level of maturity to actually talk about the sociopolicial impacts of 9/11. We might be able to articulate what the accepted precipitating factors were. My undergraduate students have some knowledge of the attacks, but mostly it feels 'old-timey' to them.

Hi Monkia,

Thanks for sharing - I think this sounds like a fantastic way of studying the evolution of this topic.  One this that has always bothered me is my desire to write about and study 9/11 better for both academic and public consumption, but I can't seem to settle on the best way to do it while giving the event "justice".  I appreciate that others like you aren't hampered by my indecision!


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