Ombudsman: Nothing funny about 9/11 coverageWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
The 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, dominated the news a few weeks ago, but true to the nature of news, we have moved on to car bombs, arson and “gay isn’t a gift from God” billboards.
In the Sept. 11 issue of Toledo Free Press, I discussed the satirical online newspaper The Onion and its “funny” take on the terrorist attacks and how humor sometimes allows us to heal.
The Onion famously poked fun at Sept. 11 with stories that included “Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake,” “U.S. Vows to Defeat Whoever It Is We’re At War With” and “Rest of Country Temporarily Feels Deep Affection for New York.”
And a lot of people loved The Onion for giving them permission to laugh again.
But one online reader did not think The Onion was funny. He believes the most appropriate coverage includes stories of respect and honor, something Toledo Free Press did in its commemorative issue. He did not think my column’s reference to The Onion was necessary.
Toledo Free Press reader Master Sgt. Jason Kraemer, who I knew many years ago, wrote to me from his home in Virginia.
“I was quite disappointed in any humor found in that day. I was deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base Saudi Arabia. I had just been released from an 18 hour shift when I was brushing my teeth and was getting ready for bed. I witnessed the second plane striking Tower 2. I looked at my RED phone and it rang. I had to report right back to work. I spent the next 12 hours launching F-15 aircraft, not knowing what mission we were performing or supporting.”
Kraemer, who graduated from Maumee High School in 1997, said he is not asking people to relish 9/11; he just wants them to understand that the military has never rested since that day.
“I am offended when people make light of 9/11. That day will always serve as a day when I FAILED! I speak only for myself. 9/11 will always remind me that I can never fail again.”
Kraemer finished by saying, “I understand you are a reporter, and report only the news. I just needed to get that out.”
Kraemer makes a good point, but as a reporter I also need to get this out. Just as your job is to keep us safe, some people work to make us laugh after unspeakable tragedy. The reference to The Onion was to remind us that laughing is some people’s only way to fight, although I certainly value the way you fight. Sometimes we need both.
To ask a question, send a letter to Community Ombudsman, c/o Brandi Barhite, at 605 Monroe St., Toledo, OH 43605, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her through www.facebook.com/toledofreepress and www.twitter.com/toledofreepress.