9/11 transformed digital journalism

By Molly Yanity, chair of journalism September 08, 2021

Molly Yanity, chair of journalism

September 11, 2001 was the day digital news learned how to walk.

I lived and worked in Seattle in 2001. I didn't know anyone primarily impacted by the tragedy, but I remember vividly getting the call in the morning. It woke me up. I rushed to the TV and was horrified by the scenes. But, my mind raced to work. I edited the SeattlePI.com in those days. I wasn't scheduled to work until the afternoon. No matter. I booked it to the newsroom because I knew we were in for a busy day.

Before that day, our primary job was to package the stories that ran in the daily newspaper for the web. But that day, everything changed. We updated stories and the homepage every few minutes. People called relentlessly trying to get information out of New York. We wanted to keep everything up to date because people with loved ones and friends needed to know whatever we had. It was just that simple.

We worked that day feverishly. I remember it was such a long day, but it just flew by. I was sweaty, exhausted. Printside had published a special edition that came out that day. Above the fold was just a blaring headline and a huge photo of the airplane striking the first tower in a ball of flames. I got home with the edition in hand that night and -- FINALLY -- the enormity of the situation actually hit.

I just put my head down and cried. All those families whose moms and dads wouldn't come home? All those firefighters poring through rubble to find and save anyone? It was just too much. How could this happen?

In the morning, we did it all again. America has never been the same. Digital news hasn't, either.

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