Honolulu Lite


Sunday, September 16, 2001

Television reporters
were cool, composed
and creepy

AMERICAN TELEVISION news reporters have become too cool. In an effort, I suppose, to show how calm and collected they can be under pressure, every network and cable news reporter and anchor person showed all the passion of a tree sloth on Quaaludes during the minute-by-minute coverage of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center and related airplane hijackings.

We have come to expect television reporters to be professional. But there's a difference between professional and comatose. I don't want them to break down and blubber, but there should be some expression of emotion. Thousands of people had been massacred, and yet most of the reporters on the scene and anchors in the studios delivered the news as if they were describing a lawn bowling match.

Remember 9-11-01

Remember when the giant airship Hindenberg exploded? The radio reporter on the ground was completely overwhelmed. As the zeppelin crashed in flames and people jumped to their death, the reporter wailed, "Oh, this is terrible! Oh, the humanity!"

Dan Rather would have said, "The Hindenberg has exploded. Check that. We don't know if this is an explosion or just a rapid expansion of flames. I caution you not to jump to any conclusions until we have all the facts. Another news organization currently is reporting that is a German airship, but we have no independent confirmation of that. Someone also has reported that hundreds of people are dead. We don't know that. We only know that there were hundreds of people on board and now the wreck is completely in flames. We won't know until the investigation is complete how many people were killed. All we know is that something fairly important has occurred. And although you saw it with your own eyes, you'll have to wait until we get official confirmation that something horrible did happen."

I wanted to shake Rather by the collar. I wanted to hear him shout "Holy s---! Did you see that?!" Something. Anything to express the utter ghastliness of what had occurred.

Our local television reporters were appropriately subdued because a whole lot of nothing was going on. Honolulu Airport was closed. That fact was more than hammered home by repeated live remote reports by capable reporters standing in front of the extremely empty loading and unloading zones.

Television in general did a fine job of covering the greatest act of war against the United States since Pearl Harbor. MTV, HGTV, the Food Network and many of the sports channels showed a lot of class by suspending regular programing and feeding CNN, Fox or other live news coverage. A religious channel ran nothing but soothing music and type running across the bottom of the screen simply asking people to pray. It was a first for all of us: commercial television on its best behavior. It was at once strangely uplifting and somewhat confounding to a hardened cynic who generally expects the worst.

Americans in general also have handled this crisis with class and dignity, from the volunteer rescuers in New York to the anonymous aunties in Honolulu who gave blood.

The terrorists should not confuse the manufactured composure of Dan Rather to the depth of emotion of the American people. As Sen. John McCain warned, "We are coming."

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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