For the American Press Institute, Special Report: Covering a National Tragedy, Managing and Reporting a News Crisis, September 2001 - Amid the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the news media have served as critical touchstones, helping to unify a nation of individuals in both rage and resolve.
Let's be mindful, however: Journalists, in times of national crisis, have a special role to play. To be sure, they help to connect citizens by sharing information. As important, they are key transmitters of the shared values and aspirations that give the U.S. the capacity to sustain a free and open society.
From the civic journalism toolbox, here are 10 tips for rebuilding and fortifying the frameworks of our society:
1. Let ordinary people see themselves in your stories doing ordinary and extraordinary things - rescuing survivors, searching for the missing, overcoming obstacles, grieving their losses. Let them see the capacity they have to transcend tragedy.
2. Give people space to tell their own stories. They need to share their joy or grief, their despair or triumph.
3. Stay interactive. Create zones of connectivity where people can trade information, chat, vent or ponder.
4. Chronicle history at large; explain, as well as condemn, the terrorists.
5. Toss out old taboos and let your readers and viewers see that journalists are human, too. You are not seeking to profiteer off calamity, rather you share in the suffering.
6. Likewise, let public officials be human - unvarnished in their uncertainty, tentative in their approaches.
7. Ban rubbernecking coverage; citizens want to do more than ogle. Celebrate the capacity of individuals to heal, to rebuild, to make a difference in your community.
8. Rise above petty competition. Set more overarching priorities.
9. Position your news organization be a good citizen in your community.
10. Create a forum for people to share their ideas, values and aspirations.