Sometimes you don’t need a new story idea. You just use a good idea that has worked before. Newsrooms around the country provided extensive coverage last year of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, much of it focused on sharing people’s memories of that unforgettable day.
I figured that most people remember exactly where they were when they first heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center. On the front page of The Oakland Press last week, we asked readers to submit their stories of where they were when they heard the news. I also set up a Google voice account where people could leave voicemails of their responses — and made a video with these.
I received 17 responses, and I picked the most interesting to include in a story, which was on the front page of the paper today. Through reaching out to the community, I was contacted by a Rochester Hills man who lost a family member who worked in the south tower, a woman who was eight months pregnant when she heard the news, a deputy who traveled to New York City to dig in the rubble for survivors, a Pontiac resident whose son was deployed to Iraq with the army one year after the attack and a West Bloomfield resident who saw the twin towers the night before the attack while flying home from vacation.
I was surprised how, even living in another state than the attacks, how many people who live here were directly affected.
On any significant anniversary story, asking people to share their memories can be an effective way to engage the community and tell stories. When I was editor of the Minot Daily News in 1991, we had similar results (all print; no video, of course) asking people to share their memories on the 40th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
What did your newsroom do to observe the anniversary this year? Please share a link below.
Wednesday update: Phil Heron, editor of the Delaware County Times, sent this response:
We got great reaction and did Storify asking people for what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001.