Gordon Friedrichs is a Graduate student from Frankfurt Germany who Studied here at Arizona State University last year.  He was in about three of my classes and that is how we met.

Below is a conversation between us where we talked about how the events of September 11th changed media coverage:

Hey Albert,

sure thing

Where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center?

I just came back from school (High school) and turned on the TV. It was around 2pm here in Germany and there first picture I saw was the first tower burning. I thought it was a trailer to a movie or something until I realized I was actually watching the news.

Was it headline news in Germany?

We have 2 public broadcast channels and 4 private and they ALL simultaneously reported live about the events in NYC from the minute on of the first plane crash. They all stopped their regular programme in order to broadcast live from NYC. They interviewed people from the streets, experts, politicians as well as local news reporter in NYC. Additionally, they started later that day some special reports about Al-Qaeda, terrorism as well as fact findings to explain this attack in any sense. Altogether, I think they had a broadcasting marathon of about 16 hours of live reporting. And that was only on 9/11.

What was your initial reaction to the events?

Actually, my first thought was: this will be war. I was still in High School so I did not have an analytical or sober view on American politics like I have today, but the picture that was portrayed in Germany about the Bush administration (hardline, hawkish conservative) led me to thought that this is going to get us into a war scenario. I think pretty much everyone felt shocked and couldn’t believe it. I felt fear though. Fear because I was afraid the US will overreact. We were taught about WWII and the nuclear bombing on Japan and I saw similar pictures in my head. I was also afraid of additional terrorist attacks, not so much in Germany, but maybe other parts in US forcing the country into chaos.

Do you think 9/11 changed the American news media in any way?

That’s an interesting question. As a non-US citizen you might get the impression that the war on terror sharpened the tone on how to protect the country and the world from such a threat. At the same time you might also think that the media uses this topic for their own purpose, namely to promote their ideological principles, whether they are liberal or conservative.

I do teach US-foreign policy here at my University for freshmen and sophomores and I also teach them about the polarization of the media in the USA and their dividedness on pretty much every issue. During my preparation for this class I found out that all of these polarized broadcasts like MSNBC or FOX News were founded in the early to mid 90’s. So long before terrorism could have any polarizing factor on the way news are covered.

So my answer is a yes and a no.

I do think that the media now talks about topics which had been taboo for a long time, therefore creating a different level of readiness among the people for cuts of their rights.

Did it change the news media in your own country?

It did not really change the news media in general, like the kind of presentation or structure. It did change the selection of topics though. Topics that are correlated to terrorism or are an immediate consequence of the war on terror enjoy now a higher sensitivity as well as a higher attention by the media. We almost had a 24/7 news coverage on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and we are always sensitive to new terrorist attacks around the world. Moreover, as soon as there are events happening such as in Tunisia or Egypt right now, the news media considers potential uprising of fundamentalists or terrorist groups.

So all in all, I believe the way international politics is covered in the media changed slightly, drawing the attention and the peoples awareness to the presence of terror in the world.

I hope this gave you some insight on German news coverage.

Feel free to ask me more questions or if I didn’t make myself clear enough on some questions!

Best

Gordon