How we started calling the former World Trade Center 'ground zero'

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 newsHow 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.

Best of: Columbia University's Sree Sreenivasan is collecting coverage of the anniversary; use the hashtag #911links to highlight notable coverage.

Earlier:

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.

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