The Commercial Appeal
This time 10 years ago, “ground zero” was used to refer to the place where a nuclear explosion occurs, or the center of intense, violent change. On Sept. 11, 2001, AP National Writer Jerry Schwartz redefined it, writing, “Emergency vehicles flooded into lower Manhattan. No one knew what happened; the towers, target of a terrorist bombing in 1993, seemed to be ground zero once again.” Schwartz, now an editor, tells The Commercial Appeal’s Richard Morgan, “This is what we do. We choose words.” Linguist Ben Zimmer suggests that “it may be time to retire ‘ground zero’ now that the site is about construction, not destruction.” (AP style, by the way, has remained “ground zero,” even now.)
Related: Joe Pompeo looks back at the stories from 9/11 and notes that journalists dropped traditional conventions, “writing from the gut”; Editorial cartoonists look back on 9/11; Anniversary brings Iraq and Afghanistan back into the news; How America’s news habits have changed in 10 years since 9/11; Roy Peter Clark describes how storytelling charts has charted our survival from Homer through 9/11.