Column: What were they thinking with 9/11 specials?

Kevin MacMillan
Editor Column

Another year, another 9/11 anniversary. I found myself Wednesday lost in the murky sea that is the Internet these days, reading personal “I remember where I was when…” statements, viewing images and, unfortunately, wasting time reading comment strings debating whether the whole thing was the largest conspiracy in America’s history.

What did I come away with? Two things: 1. Social media has changed how we “remember” something. 2. There is no shortage of opportunities for us to scratch our heads and wonder, “what in the hell were they thinking?”

First, maybe it’s just me, but I was weirded out when people posted photos and videos of the tragedy on their social feeds. I would have been just fine not seeing those planes smash into the World Trade Center again.

For me, the whole concept of “Never Forget” is to solemnly remember what happened and to honor those who lost their lives — not to relive the events. After all, I surely don’t have a desire to share photos of atom bombs and mushroom clouds during Hiroshima’s anniversary.

I suppose I get it — the event is one ingrained in our memories forever, and people are bound to want to see it again. In reality, 9/11 really does have that “OJ Ford Bronco chase” effect to it.

But is it an excuse to make a profit?

I present Exhibit A: The very industry for which I work. Newspapers.

I’m no dummy — print media is struggling, and our industry’s leaders and executives are searching and searching for answers to cull more advertising and circulation revenue. But a 9/11-themed subscription special? C’mon.

The geniuses in charge at the Starkville Daily News (Mississippi) apparently felt using one of America’s darkest days as a revenue stream was the right call to close out the third quarter on a strong note.

The paper’s full-page black-and-white ad on the back page of Wednesday’s sports section screamed: “Today only. Sign up for a new subscription, or renew your subscription for $9.11 per month.” The $9.11 figure, by the way, took up nearly half the page.

Some news outlets wrote stories on the incident and called the paper’s publisher, Don Norman, for comment. Calls were not returned. Hey, no such thing as bad press, right?

But if you thought that was bad, it was one-upped two days earlier by the infamous 9/11 golf special in Verona, Wisc.

The Tumbledown Trails golf course ran an ad in the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday boasting a commemorative deal: “9 holes with cart for only $9.11 per person, or 18 holes with cart for only $19.11! 9/11/13 Only!”

So wait … were the exclamation points to make sure we understood how much they really, REALLY were memorializing 9/11?

By the way, in case you were wondering, thankfully, the coupon lets readers know that it “can not be combined with other offers.”

First of all, it was a rather small ad with likely little revenue — the newspaper’s publisher should have declined to run it. Second (and this is tongue-in-cheek, folks), I’m bummed I couldn’t combo the deal with my $4.04 day-pass at the course to “commemorate” Martin Luther King’s assassination (April 4, 1968).

It didn’t take long for the golf course to apologize through its Facebook page for the deal.

These are just two of several head-scratching examples of questionable decisions made this week with 9/11 in mind. Google will help you find several more.

The correct way to honor those who died in this horrific tragedy is by penning a touching tribute or holding a moment of silence.

It’s quite the opposite when businesses and corporations apparently blinded by the almighty dollar are exploiting 9/11 for profit.

— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached for comment at

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