Alternative Takes on Sept. 11 Anniversary

Focus on civil liberties, peace

From the quirky, to the leftie to the heart-breaking, alternative newspapers offer their own take on the one-year anniversary of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington

Some are taking a rather curmudgeonly approach to the national period of mourning and remembrance. “You won’t find any pictures in this issue of planes flying into buildings, fireballs, or the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center. We promise,” says Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger in Seattle.

Matthew Spaur, president, The Local Planet Weekly is also eschewing any special Sept. 11 commentary. “In general, the mainstream media seems to be in such an orgy about 9/11 that we’re not going to compete,” he says.

Publisher David Comden agrees and said weeks ago that the Ventura County Reporter would downplay Sept. 11 “as every single other media in the world will overdo it. They’ve already started in dailies and while it is a tragedy of epic proportions, we won’t feed at the carcass of remembrance.”

However, most alternative newsweeklies are in some way marking the anniversary.

The Village Voice, which had reporters at Ground Zero last Sept. 11, puts together a three-part special package on the anniversary, “After the Fall.” Philadelphia City Paper also devotes most of its Sept. 5 issue to the anniversary, questioning the government’s activities in the intervening year and demanding answers in “The Truth About Sept. 11.”

Two papers decided the only way to convey the surreal quality of life post-Sept. 11 was with cartoons.

Creative Loafing’s weeklies in Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh and the Weekly Planet in Tampa joined forces and funds to contract with artist/cartoonist Carol Lay, a regular contributor to The five-page cartoon Lay produced, “Sept. 11: One year later”, is “a coherent, though surreal, story about a boy and his mom who, because their father/husband died in the WTC, are being brought to the Texas White House for a photo-op with W,” says John Grooms, editor of Creative Loafing Charlotte. “They run into Ashcroft and others and wind up being incarcerated temporarily in Guantanamo West with other ‘dangerous types,’ before being sent home.”

Charleston City Paper also chose to go with a cartoonist to mark the anniversary, in this case Ted Rall. His cover cartoon depicts “a couple sitting on a couch, zombie-like, waving flags and wearing ‘United We Stand’ shirts, watching TV. A cable guy, wearing a TIPS hat is spying on them, an FBI-looking guy is peering in the window, and a video camera is mounted on the wall keeping tabs on these average Americans, all the while a plane in the background is heading for a nearby building,” says Editor Stephanie Barna. “It’s pretty biting commentary and definitely non-sentimental.”

Pittsburgh City Paper’s Marty Levine took an off-beat approach and interviewed people who live at various 911 addresses. His story begins: “Your house number is 911 — does that bother you? When Anita Grupp hears the question she draws her breath in sharply. ‘Every time I give my address I say, ‘My address is 911, if you believe it,’ says the Mt. Lebanon resident.”

In New Orleans, Editor Michael Tisserand says Gambit Weekly is doing a special feature called “11 Stories,” 11 oral histories of New Orleanians about what they recall from the day and how Sept. 11 and its aftermath changed them.

“The people include a military reservist, a Sikh woman/activist, a local artist who lost his brother and used a piece of the WTC in his art, a hotel doorman, an illegal immigrant who got picked up and is facing a hearing, and more,” Tisserand says.

San Diego Reader has taken a similar approach, interviewing 100 San Diegans about where they were when it happened as well as a separate news feature on how Sept. 11 affected travel agents, “Al Qaeda Effect”.

Several weeklies chose to focus on the Muslim community, among them Fort Worth Weekly’s “Strangers in Their Homeland” and Sacramento News & Review’s “A Separate Peace”.

“Our intern this summer — extremely bright and a very good journalist — was a young Muslim woman, who wrote about how life has changed for Muslim Americans since 9/11,” says Fort Worth Weekly Editor Gayle Reaves. “In addition to giving a very articulate description of her own feelings, etc., Naureen interviewed people in the Muslim community who told her, among other things, that a small minority of Muslims think the U.S. should change to accommodate Islamic law, rather than Muslims adapting to the U.S., and that teachers in Muslim schools say there is no doubt that the parents of some of their students feel support for al Qaeda and bin Laden, which makes for some very confused kids. Also, if I do say so myself, the cover art that goes with it is kick-ass.”

“A Separate Peace” looks at California’s capital’s Muslim community, which has spent a year grieving over the events of last September and finding a way to rebuild their faith in America.

SN&R is also producing an event this evening in cooperation with Sacramento’s faith community. Thousands of Sacramentans are expected to gather for “A Call for Unity,” a two-hour interfaith music and spoken word event, “probably the most diverse gathering ever assembled in our city,” says Operations Manager Deborah Redmond. “It’s been a great way to turn a tragedy into an impetus to come together and create constructive changes in our community.”

Many AAN papers made the anniversary their cover story.

Monterey County Coast Weekly has a four-part cover package on the anniversary called “A Nation in Crisis.” Syracuse New Times also devotes its cover story today to Editor Molly English’s feature on changes in the Muslim community.

East Bay Express is doing a special issue of dueling perspectives titled “Everything Has Changed, Nothing Has Changed,” says Editor Stephen Buel, while Houston Press devotes the cover to the anniversary as well as several features inside the paper, says Editor Margaret Downing.

Some papers simply worked the anniversary into regular features and columns.

For example, Cincinnati City Beat chose “Ordinary Heroes” as the theme of its annual Literary Issue and “tried to focus on books and writers who had ‘ordinary people’ as their hero characters. We also did a wrap-up of 9/11 related books and some 9/11 memories from staff writers and interns,” says Co-Publisher/Editor John Fox.

Marc Eisen, editor of Isthmus, says arts writer Kent Williams “is taking a crack at What It All Means. This will be an essay with reflections on his own life and the country at large.” Isthmus is also running an opinion column by Don Downs, an academic expert on civil liberties.

Monday Magazine in Victoria, B.C., is also setting its Arts Editor John Threlfall the task of looking “into the growing culture and acceptance of surveillance in light of 9/11,” says Editor Alisa Gordaneer. “We’re too far away from NYC to really have much personal impact to reflect on, but the social impact of greater ‘security’ in the name of ‘safety’ is certainly carrying over to the rest of North America.”

Ottawa X Press also runs a personal remembrance by a columnist as well as a small feature on “The Revival of a Peace Movement.”

Nashville Scene’s Editor Bruce Dobie writes a short story in the current week’s issue about his visit to Ground Zero over the summer, while C-Ville Weekly also ran a cover feature on “Peace”, featuring short comments from a variety of citizens on what peace means to them now.