Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive

We are proud to announce the launch of Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive, a library of news coverage of the events of 9/11/2001 and their aftermath as presented by U.S. and international broadcasters. A resource for scholars, journalists and the public, the library presents one week (3,000 hours from 20 channels over 7 days) of news broadcasts for study, research and analysis, with select analysis by scholars.

911 collection pageTelevision is our preeminent medium of information, entertainment and persuasion, but until now it has not been a medium of record. Scholars face great challenges in identifying, locating and adequately citing television news broadcasts in their research. This archive attempts to address this gap by making TV news coverage of this critical week in September 2001 available to those studying these events and their treatment in the media.

Background on the Television Archive

Internet Archive is a non-profit library founded in 1996 that started by attempting to collect every webpage from all websites. This is a major task but it is doable even by a non-profit.

Another medium, television, struck us as historically under-appreciated, despite its tremendous importance. Television is pervasive and persuasive, but it is difficult to access programs for research and analysis.  We felt that TV should be a medium of record, a moniker generally reserved for newspaper publishing. As we learned in high school, to effectively understand we need to be able to ‘compare and contrast’. We need to be able to quote.

Talking with the Library of Congress in 2000 we found that they were not systematically recording TV. Talking with the Federal Broadcast Information Service which was collecting TV for the US intelligence community, we found it would probably be difficult to get the recordings from them for library use. The notable Vanderbilt TV News archive at that time was struggling financially and only captured several hours of television news each night. As a result, we decided to create the Television Archive to help preserve this culturally important medium.

Starting in late 2000, we began collecting Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Iraqi, French, Mexican, British, American, and other stations… 20 channels of TV in DVD quality.

When the events of September 11, 2001 occurred, we, like most Americans, urgently wanted international perspectives on the United States. Stunned by the attacks, we tried to figure out what we could do to help.  Seventy-one people and organizations worked together to get one week of TV News up on the Internet to be launched on October 11, 2001. (Bear in mind this is 3 years before YouTube started.) Launched at the Newseum in Washington DC, we made a website that allowed anyone to research the collection of 20 channels for the week of September 11th.

Today, we are relaunching this collection with an updated interface with a conference at NYU.

22 thoughts on “Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive

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    1. kjo1981

      Too bad “pull” isn’t a word that’s associated with demolition by explosive means. Ask any demolition expert, pick one at random. The only time they talk about “pulling” anything in demo is when they are actually pulling a building down with cables.

      1. bob

        The definition of “pull down”:

        pull down – To demolish; destroy: pull down an old office building.

        pull down 1. To pull down or break up so that reconstruction is impossible: demolish, destroy, dismantle, dynamite, knock down, level, pulverize, raze, tear down, wreck

        Controlled Demolitions, Inc said Pull it” is when they actually pull it down. uhh what else could it posibly mean? after that silverstien says and then it came down. but im about 92% sure your one of them or your brainwashed like most. So its about the same as talking to my shoe

      2. Drew

        Actually this is incorrect. I live in Baltimore, MD where the family owned company “Controlled Demolition” is located. They are one of, if not the largest demolition companies in the world. I happened to meet Stacy Loizeaux, who is a family member and an executive with the company, at a bar. This was right after they blew up Lafayette Courts public housing project in Baltimore. I struck up a conversation and asked her questions about controlled demolitions. She used the term “pull” and “pull it” repeatedly to describe the blowing up of buildings. Years later, after 911, when Silverstien made the famous quote “we decided to pull it” it instantly brought back the memory of that conversation with Stacy.

      3. Amish

        Nelson Rockefeller ordered the towers built when he was NY governor. Nelson went on to be VP under Gerald Ford. The twin towers were even nicknamed after the Rockefeller brothers: Nelson and David.

        Silverstein was leased the towers just prior to the 9/11 event as the fallguy. The billionaire insider was likely in on it and has been in no trouble for his part. He was put on PBS where he famously said “pull it” for the alternative media spin ran by the feds who did 9/11 who then blame “Israel”.

        Same with the supposed “dancing israelis”. This is just federal created disinfo. We know who did 9/11: Washington 100%, not Israel or any Jewish conspiracy.

    2. usty

      He says that the firefighters told him the fire couldn’t be controlled, so by “pulling it” he means the fire fighting operation on bldg 7, taking the other firefighters out of harms way. It’s pretty clear on that clip. Doing that then let fires rage uncontrolled for hours…leading to failure. But its more fun to think its a conspiracy maaaaan. Right?

      1. James

        Except for the fact that there were no firefighters in the building, according to the historycommons.org complete 9/11 timeline. Here’s what it says at 11:30 a.m. :
        However, as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will later report, “According to the FDNY first-person interviews, water was never an issue at WTC 7 since firefighting was never started in the building. When the Chief Officer in charge of WTC 7 got to Barclay Street and West Broadway, numerous firefighters and officers were coming out of WTC 7. These firefighters indicated that several blocks needed to be cleared around WTC 7 because they thought that the building was going to collapse.”
        So Silverstein lied on the PBS documentary, plain and simple. This doesn’t prove it was an “inside job” but a lie is a lie. The firefighters thought the building was going to collapse and Larry told someone to pull it.
        Regardless, Larry sure was lucky that his wife “forced” him into going to his doctor’s appointment that morning, and then he was able to collect, what was it, $4.55 billion from insurance claims. What a lucky guy, and it sure was lucky that both his son and daughter were both running late on 9/11 because both worked at the World Trade Center. Perhaps these are merely coincidences, but boy what a lucky family!

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  3. JD

    Am I missing something? With the new interface, you can only watch clips that are 30 seconds long, and so have to click and click and click and click to watch lengthier portions of coverage? Why would anyone want to only watch 30 seconds at a time?

    You’d think when you click on the boxes from the main browsing pages, that 10-minute interval would play as a single file.

    This is unuseable in this format. Is there some part of the code that isn’t appearing properly?

    Hopefully the prior version of the Sept. 11 Archive will remain up for access to the longer clips from the main networks.

      1. JS

        I agree with the comments above, not very user friendly at all.
        3000 hours in 30 second clips which the last several seconds is repeated in the following clip. it’s disappointing to say the least.

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  5. Deloy Sterns

    Any possibility of the network’s(ABC,NBC,FOX News Channel) coverage audio be accessible as mp3 files?

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  7. Margot Robinson

    Re: video files. First, please provide the option of selecting a network, and selecting “Play All” so that all the clips automatically play in sequence as a playlist. Second, please provide the means to select a block on the timeline with a particular network and have them automatically play as a playlist. Third, please provide longer clips. it is truly irritating, and takes you out of the flow of the events to be made to keep clicking to play 30-second clips. This does nothing to advance understanding of what happened that day.

  8. John Piggott

    “Unuseable”, “truly irritating”, “does nothing to advance understanding” … there is just no pleasing some people. The last comment is particularly galling. What its author rather have? Nothing at all? I thank all those involved for working their guts out to provide this 9/11 archive, “flaws” and all.

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