A California-based organization that stores Internet images, video, audio and webpages for posterity has created an archive of 3,000 hours of television coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The collection by The Internet Archive includes more than 20 channels of international TV News over seven days, and select analysis by scholars. The footage begins shortly before the first reports.
In one clip, the NBC morning show Today begins as usual, panning over a crowd of pedestrians gathered to watch the broadcast. Just as news anchor Ann Curry begins to talk about the segments, the show suddenly breaks away into a commercial and then comes back almost immediately with live video images of the first terrorist strike on the World Trade Center; NBC's news anchors are obviously stunned and unsure about what had taken place. The contrast is jolting.
The Internet Archive said the purpose of the new resource entitled, "Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive," is to help scholars, journalists and the public research the week of news broadcasts for analysis. According to The Internet Archive, 71 people worked to compile the coverage of the terrorist attacks.
"Understanding 9/11" is not the first archive detailing a history of events as covered by the Internet and mass media. In 2009, the non-profit organization opened a data center for its Wayback Machine digital time capsule, which archived every website created from 1996 to the present.
For example, the Wayback Machine shows what Google looked like in the year 2000.
In its latest time capsule of 9/11 television coverage, all major U.S. networks, such as ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, as well as online television recordings from Moscow, Paris, London, Baghdad, Tokyo, and Ottawa are available for viewing.
"Television is our pre-eminent medium of information, entertainment and persuasion, but until now it has not been a medium of record," The Internet Archive said in a statement. "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."
The archive includes written perspectives on the 9/11 coverage by scholars, such as Pat Aufderheide, a professor at the Center of Social Media at American University, and William Uricchio, director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and professor of Comparative Media History.
"The pain of losing loved ones remains a trauma that few of us will escape. But the vicious and arbitrary way that so many died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania is horrifying in a very different way. Carried by a medium so often filled with simulated images of death and destruction, horror of this magnitude easily reads as spectacle," Uriccho wrote in his perspective.
"Flattened on the small screen and consumed in our living rooms far from the sounds, smells and dust of lower Manhattan, the images seem fantastic, even surreal."
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.