On Exhibit: Reporting Terrorism
When terrorism strikes, people around the world turn to the media for information. Journalists play many roles in bringing breaking news, serving local needs and telling the courageous stories of those most affected. April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City, was the tipping point in a new era of news coverage.
“This exhibit came out of conversations and reflections from journalists who worked the Oklahoma City bombing,” said Kari Watkins, Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Executive Director. “The impact of media coverage of terrorist acts affects victims, survivors and the general public. Reporters walk a fine line in providing full and unbiased coverage without compromising national security or inciting fear among the public.”
Reporting Terrorism takes visitors into the newsroom following the Oklahoma City bombing to help them understand the challenges of covering an event unprecedented in American history. Further insight into how media has evolved since 9/11 and beyond and a look into the continued transformation of how acts of terrorism are covered and conveyed to audiences are also highlighted in this special exhibit.
Interviews with local and national journalists who covered the Oklahoma City bombing show the effect this event had on both their immediate and ongoing news coverage as well as the personal toll it took on many.
“There was no way to grasp the scale of it because we hadn’t seen anything like it before,” said former Oklahoma City reporter/anchor Devin Scillian. “It was the psychological chaos in the newsroom because it is our job to have a handle on perspective, and it is our job to put things in context. How in the world could we put this thing without context into context?”
An interactive kiosk places visitors at the editor’s desk, asking them to choose the image that best tells the story of April 19, 1995, for the front page of the paper. Throughout the exhibit, thought-provoking questions about the ethical and editorial implications of decisions made by journalists help visitors gain a better understanding of the dilemmas faced daily by media around the world who now cover terrorism on a daily basis.
The exhibit begins with the news reports of the Oklahoma City bombing and walks visitors through the news coverage of some of the worst acts of terrorism around the world. Artifacts, including cameras, reporters’ notebooks, letters to the media from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the helmet ABC anchor Bob Woodruff was wearing when he was critically injured covering the War on Terror in Iraq, give visitors tangible insight into what it takes to report acts of terrorism.
As visitors leave, they grab a special edition newspaper with tips, perspectives and lessons learned, told by journalists from around the country.
The exhibit was made possible through the generous support of Devon Energy Corporation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Cox Communications and OPUBCO Communications Group. Special thanks goes to KFOR Oklahoma’s NewsChannel 4, KOCO Eyewitness News 5, KWTV News 9, The Skirvin Hilton, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Gazette, Tulsa World, The Journal Record and Southwestern Stationery and Bank Supply, Inc.
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©2011 Oklahoma City National Memorial