After 5 hours sitting stunned in front of the television, this was sent out to Crikey’s 1600 subscribers as we weigh up exactly what role we should play in the biggest news story of our life time.

The head is still spinning but here are a few disjointed thoughts.

Already world stockmarkets have plunged, oil prices have surged and the US has come to a standstill.

The big question now is the scale of the American military response and exactly what global implications that will have.

In journalistic terms, the really big story is the detail of how this was done, who did it and how it got through the American intelligence defences. Hundreds of books will be written on this.

The American authorities will carefully use the media to reveal only selective information as this process works through.

The Tampa drama has highlighted the brutality of the regime in Afghanistan and Australia’s globally noticed rejection of the refugees had heightened world interest in the Taliban leading into this attack.

THE AUSTRALIAN MEDIA

Australian journalists are as well-placed in Afghanistan as anyone. Is Liz Hayes from 60 Minutes still there? Jonathon Harley was certainly leading the questions broadcast worldwide on CNN from the press conference held by the Taliban foreign minister in Kabul.

John Howard initially bunkered down in the basement of the Australian embassy and the Australian connection in this whole drama is startlingly high. John Howard and his travelling press corp were in Washington mid-press conference as events unfolded in New York and just minutes before the Pentagon was hit.

And to think that former President Bill Clinton was in Australia enjoying Port Douglas when all this unfolded. He’s heading home early as is John Howard.

It didn’t take long for the Australian media to kick in with blanket coverage as anchors such as Geoff Parry, Tony Jones, John Highfield and Jim Waley worked through the night, with Waley and Jones merely extending the Lateline and Nightline shifts.

One can only imagine what lies ahead for New York Post editor in chief Col Allan overseeing the biggest news story in his life and probably most of our lives.

AUSTRALIANS OWN THE WORLD TRADE CENTRE

One big Australian connection is the fact that Frank Lowy’s Westfield America Trust bought the World Trade Centre in late April this year and the deal is due to settle this month.

Expect WAT and Westfield Holdings shares to tumble today. With Westfield boss Frank Lowy one of the more prominent billionaire supporters of Israel worldwide, it is possible albeit unlikely that events in the Middle East led to him and the World Trade Centre being targeted.

This is the story from The Australian of April 28 explaining the Westfield takeover:

“FRANK Lowy’s Westfield America has pulled off the richest real estate deal in New York history, paying up to $800 million for control of the retail space at the city’s famous World Trade Centre.

Westfield has joined with Manhattan property developer Larry Silverstein in a joint $6.2 billion bid which hands over management rights and a 99-year lease for the retail precinct at the foot of the twin 110-floor towers. The partnership also has control over office space.

“This is a special opportunity for us,” Westfield America’s chief executive Peter Lowy said.

“The World Trade Centre is one of the most prominent office and retail complexes in the world, and we look forward to putting our management, leasing and development experience to work at this premier property.”

Westfield will take control of a 400,000 sq ft shopping mall, known as The Mall, considered to have one of the highest producing sales volumes in America with sales in excess of $US900 per square foot. It will contain 75 specialty stores, restaurants and service retailers and will be branded “Westfield Shoppingtown World Trade Centre”.

Westfield said the retail precinct served 40,000 office workers and 150,000 daily commuters. About 40,000 people representing 430 companies and 28 countries work in the complex, which was opened in December 1970.

The buildings are owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which has been seeking a private operator for five years.

Mr Silverstein and representatives from the Port Authority began negotiating more than one month ago after talks between the authority and a private real estate company, Vornado Realty Trust, fell through. The Silverstein-Westfield bid was finalised late yesterday after Mr Silverstein finalised his financing arrangements.

As part of the deal, Mr Silverstein has handed over a $US100 million ($196 million) non-refundable deposit, and an additional $US516 million is due when the deal closes some time in September. Mr Lowy is Australia’s second richest man and next week will celebrate his company’s 40th anniversary.

THE STOCK REMARKET RESPONSE

If you thought conditions were tough for Ansett and everyone in the airline business before, wait until the full effect of plunging global travel and surging oil prices kicks in.

Banks, transport and insurance stocks will get clobbered worldwide today but oil and media companies should go the other way.

Market interest rates are already falling and expect that to keep happening to offset a likely further slowdown in the world economy.

REAL LIVE TRAGEDY

Watching the buildings collapse live on CNN was one of the most extraordinary things you would ever see.

And in this age of television and the internet, chat rooms around the world instantly lit up and will continue to rage for months ahead.

The TV images of Palestinian refugees celebrating will no doubt trigger revenge vigilante attacks around the world.

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US

Crikey spent most of the night as a media consumer and the head is really spinning. Today’s regular email was about to sent when the news first broke so we’ve forgotten the usual routine for the time being and held over all that material.

It’s now time to get a couple of hours sleep but I’d be interested in knowing what sort of role you’d like Crikey to play covering this issue in the weeks ahead.

It is a daunting prospect but we have a number of options including a media watchdog and commentary role, analysis of the spin, assessment of the economic side of things or even things such as accounts from New York survivors.

Obviously you’ll be getting saturation coverage from everyone else on this so maybe you just want Crikey to stick to its knitting.

IN CONCLUSION

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy and there really is a sense that things won’t be the same again for a long time.

Stephen Mayne and The Crikey Team

[email protected]

Peter Fray

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