Magazine article Editor & Publisher

With the World Crashing Down All around Them

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

With the World Crashing Down All around Them

Article excerpt

New York-based daily newspapers provided praiseworthy public service after worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S.

Editor's Note: On Sept. 11, newspapers throughout the country began coverage of a catastrophe of unimaginable proportion. With the exception of a spate of ill- informed, hubristic editorials offering unsought advice on the conduct of the presidency during a crisis, the press -- and the media in general -- performed admirably. The four dailies in New York (as well as Newsday, The Record, and The Star-Ledger across the rivers) overcame utter chaos, personal tragedy, and in some cases bodily injury to produce outstanding editions that did what newspapers do best: inform and serve the public. Here are their stories.-- William F. Gloede

The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal staffers found themselves having to chronicle the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history only after narrowly escaping death themselves. The Journal, headquartered four blocks from the World Trade Center, was near ground zero.

As debris fell from the sky, employees scrambled down the World Financial Center's stairs about 9:15 a.m., shortly after the second tower was hit. Parent Dow Jones & Co. Inc. employs about 900 at the center.

Staffers were ferried across the Hudson River to South Brunswick, N.J., where the Journal has its back-office and printing operations. A skeleton crew, many of whom had watched people plunge to their deaths that morning, fell into lockstep to produce a scaled-back version of the next day's issue in a makeshift newsroom.

"It's a clichE, but you do what you got to do," said Larry Rout, a senior editor who was among the evacuees. "I was terrified as I was walking down the stairs, and I was horrified as I watched bodies jumping. ... But I was very lucky, and I do have a paper to get out."

Fortunately, no employees were known to be seriously injured or dead.

The scope of the news merited a six-column headline Wednesday, something the paper has done only twice before in its 112-year history -- after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War. One feature that was surely well-read was a list of World Trade Center tenants and floors they occupied.

The Journal, circulation 1,819,528, managed to deliver to 88% of its subscribers, and single-copy outlets sold out quickly. Those who couldn't find a print copy could read its coverage online, as the paper, one of the few to successfully charge for online news access, waived its fees for part of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Many Journal staffers went to the Jersey City, N.J., offices of corporate sibling Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday, only to find the offices empty. Employees didn't wait long to evacuate the offices, which lie directly across the water from New York's Financial District. "When we saw the first tower come down, we kind of knew it was time to go out," said Rick Stine, managing editor of Dow Jones News Service. "People were getting very emotionally distraught."

Kopin Tan, a stock-options-market reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, was eating breakfast with sources in the New York Marriott World Trade Center when he noticed debris falling from the sky and a burning smell. After joining the stream of people moving south, he passed clumps of flesh on the ground. He was only a few blocks from the center when the first tower fell, enveloping the area in a snowy dust cloud. He eventually groped his way through the dust to a ferry that took him to Staten Island.

Next day, Tan had to cover the disaster's impact on the options market, although his mind was elsewhere. He heeded the advice of an exchange person who told him that in such times it's good to follow a routine: "I didn't want to be writing about money and profit. I didn't want to come across as callous, but, at the same time, it's important to do your job."

The Journal is likely to continue publishing from New Jersey for several weeks while it looks for permanent space in Manhattan, said Dow Jones spokesman Steven Goldstein. …

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