"I've Never Been So Proud"
On campus to accept a Light on the Hill award, NBC News President and Tufts graduate Neal Shapiro described the impact of the Sept. 11 attacks on the American media.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.12.02] On Sept. 10, NBC News President Neal Shapiro concluded a tour of the networks' foreign bureaus and caught the last flight to the U.S. While he didn't know it at the time, the news media, like the rest of the country, was just a few hours from one of its biggest challenges -- which would forever change the industry.
"I've never been so proud about being a journalist than I was that week," Shapiro told an audience at Tufts, describing the news industry's response to the Sept.11 attacks.
A 1981 Tufts graduate, Shapiro returned to campus on Thursday to receive a Light on the Hill award -- the highest honor the student body awards to alumni. Several other Tufts graduates in the media were on hand for the event, including Boston Globe editor Neil Swidey, Channel 5 News anchor Anthony Everett and David Burke, the former president of both ABC and CBS News.
Following a relatively slow news season last summer, the landscape of the American media changed dramatically in just a few hours on September 11, Shapiro said.
"We're not going to slip back into the days when OJ, Monica and Chandra were all we wrote about," he said. "Sept. 11 has accelerated a world in which there are fewer and fewer answers."
Networks like NBC dedicated extensive resources -- both in manpower and money -- to cover what many people considered to be the biggest story in the country's history. Everyone, Shaprio said, had to take on extra roles.
Reporters were given hand-held cameras and sent out to cover the story from as many angles as possible. Anchors spent hours at a time on camera, delivering almost continuous updates.
Even Shaprio -- who was overseeing NBC's entire news operation, including NBC's network news, MSNBC and Dateline NBC -- pitched in to edit hours of footage for the NBC's broadcasts.
And with the increased coverage, came increased risk.
According to Shaprio, at least 100 reporters have been killed covering post-Sept. 11 stories. As a result, networks have made extensive efforts to prepare and protect their news crews as they continue to cover stories overseas.
"I think reporting is getting harder and even more dangerous," he said. "We now send our reporters that are overseas to terrorist training ... that's what we have to do."
But the press is adapting.
"Journalism must change as the world around us continues to change," Shapiro said.
After accepting the Light on the Hill award, the Tufts graduate credited his experiences at Tufts -- both inside the classroom and as a reporter for the student media -- with preparing him for his job at the helm of NBC's world-wide news operation.
In addition to what he learned through his political science and history classes, Shaprio said he learned to tell stories in his English classes and he learned to edit film through courses he took in Tufts' Experimental College.
"The higher I get [in the news business], the more I realize how Tufts ... helped me understand the world," Shaprio said.
One of two graduates selected for a Light on the Hill Award in 2002, Shapiro joins a distinguished group of past recipients, including Hall of Fame astronaut Rick Hauck, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and former Energy Secretary and U.S. Representative to the United Nations Bill Richardson.
In September, 1984 Tufts graduate and "Ed" co-creator Rob Burnett will accept the second Light on the Hill award of the year.