Have We Forgotten? Pearl Harbor, 71 Years Later
There are occasions when even the best intentions to remember great events are simply overwhelmed by the steady passage of time and the mortal departure of the key figures of those events. The news media, therefore, can be forgiven, to some extent, for the paucity of stories commemorating the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
The Washington Post did not run any Pearl Harbor story in the print version this morning, though the Post website did feature a video interview with Betty McIntosh, a reporter for the Honolulu Star Bulletin, who witnessed the attack. The McIntosh piece is, however, a bit thin on the history of that day—we learn more about Ms. McIntosh in the four-and-a-half minute piece than we do about the infamy of the date.
Other news organizations either played the historic moment in small subheads on their homepages, NBC News (‘Solemn moment’: Pearl Harbor dead remembered), or simply chose to run nothing (CBS, Huffington). Competition for headlines and page views means today’s editors cannot afford the patience or space for remembrance of things past. Today’s Baltimore Sun couldn’t make that point any clearer with its headline, “On Twitter, we’re remembering Pearl Harbor and recapping Scandal.”
From the perspective of a journalist of the Boomer generation—whose parents were in their twenties in 1941, and who have, or had, a World War II veteran in the family—the sense of being entitled to more feature space than the media are willing to give up 71 years later, has to be tempered by the reality of the times. To an aging and departing generation, Pearl Harbor, with its 2,439 dead, the paucity of retrospectives is a signal we cannot ignore: Then was then.
For today’s generation of journalists, 9-11’s 2,996 deaths are still fresh, the battlefield scenes current, and the images of the homeward-bound wounded are ever-present. Separating the two attacks into equally newsworthy moments for today’s audiences is simply not realistic, or even interesting. The signal for today’s news consumers: Now is now.
Wars and warriors fade in the grass of passing decades and centuries; we lose more than a thousand World War II and Korean War veterans every day, their presence among us replaced by monuments, memorials and cemetery plots. Not the most attention-grabbing news pegs when the fiscal cliff beckons, I suppose. But some of us will continue to look for the stories and the editorials commemorating that distant Sunday morning when the world turned upside down in a harbor far, far away.
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