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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

November 11th, 2001

This began as an opportunity for me to make sense of what has happened.
Before submitting my ruminations to Hal, I circulated them among friends who
asked me: how is it? How is it going? What is it like to be in New York?

I am a television baby. A now, I must admit though am loathe to, middle-aged
man who does not remember any time in his life when there was not a
television in the house and when he first got the opportunity to work in
television felt as if he had won the lottery.

In the field of television I have done everything from sell advertising time
to develop programs. I’ve worked for a couple of cable networks, an ad
agency in its television programming arm, consulted and run a production

So it is not surprising that many of my friends are from the television world
and that many of them are programmers who are making efforts to deal with the
events of September 11th on both a personal and professional level.

My god! Is it really two months? A few days short of two months since the
world changed.

So, recently, I have begun to reach out to my friends who work in the
business to see how they’re doing, no matter where they are. Five years ago
I met Jennifer Hyde when I was on a trip to Atlanta for Chambers Productions,
the company for which I was working. Since then, Jennifer and I have always
been a phone call away and she has been one of the people who has celebrated
and commiserated with me about the ups and downs of my professional life
since we met.

She is Director of Development for CNN Productions and I phoned her on Monday
of this last week to just touch base, to ask her how she’s doing. Since 9/11
I’ve been feeling the need to know how my friends and fellow programming
people are coping personally and how they are moving forward professionally.

Our Monday conversation got truncated. No matter what the state of AOL Time
Warner, you do not take a call from Ted Turner’s office. So we caught up the
following day.

Like so many other people I know, it has been a time of prioritizing for
Jennifer. Looking at her desk, she sees things that were incredibly
important on September 10 but today are not quite as important. Like most
everyone I know, Jennifer sees the world through a different prism. The pile
of files on her desk have been re-ordered; so have the files in her personal

And her work is being seen by herself and her network through a different
prism. The long form unit has suddenly a deeper relevance. It was Jennifer
and her colleagues who brought a fateful look in August into the world of the
Taliban when they presented BENEATH THE VEIL. May we all who work in
television have the prescience that Jennifer exhibited. But what was
interesting – and perhaps telling – was that this was the highest rated show
they’d ever done. Before we lost the Towers; before we were at war.

The events of September 11 have aroused in Jennifer Hyde, as they have in me
and in every American I know, a sense of pride in our country in the way we
responded. "We were uniformly excellent in the days after September 11," she

And I could not agree more. We were universally excellent. We are, or at
least have been until 9/11, I think, the most guiltlessly sybaritic nation to
march across the globe since the Visigoths finally sacked Rome but at our
heart and in our souls we have remained guiltless and pure – and that is what
allowed us to be, as Jennifer said, "Uniformly excellent."

It was good for me to speak with Jennifer because she said things and found
the words for things I haven’t. She said to me, "There is no rest."

There is not. And we will not rest again in the same way we did before. I
will never again sleep as deep and sweet a sleep as I did before 9/11, before
waking that night to the whine of fighter jets patrolling my sky against

She told me a line has been drawn in the sand and there is a world that is
pre and post 9/11. I agree. In some earlier missive I said something about
crossing the Rubicon. We didn’t. Osama did. Now we all are living with the

And in speaking with Jen, I began to see the consequences of what has
happened to our country from having had Osama Bin Laden cross the Rubicon.
For one thing, our vision is bigger. Our vision of this country is larger.
Our vision of the world is larger.

We are willing to submerse ourselves in the story of a documentary like
BENEATH THE VEIL so that we can learn what it is like to be a woman in
Afghanistan under the Taliban. We were that way before 9/11 and we are more
so now. We are more open to the issues. We are, as never before, aware that
world we live in is larger than that expanse of land bordered by the Atlantic
and the Pacific Oceans.

9/11 "has raised the bar for relevance," said Jen. Oh God, has it! It is a
world in which we will not open Christmas cards with the same joy we have in
years past; it is a world in which the exuberance that ruled in the last five
years will seem a dream of another time.

We are, as Jen said, pensive now as individuals and as a nation. We are
thinking internationally. We are thoughtful. It is encouraging for her to
think that the appetite has grown in America for programs that are
intelligent and international in their focus.

Jennifer told me she has no word for this sadness that we feel. That we as a
people have no word for the angst we have discovered in the last seven weeks.
But in this wordlessness and in this angst has come an expanded sense of
national identity and we have a sense of coherence as a nation that has not
been experienced by this country since the Second World War ended.

And God love her, she is right. No man is an island; no country is an
island. Those are her words and she is absolutely correct. A few men
captured four airplanes and shattered our illusion of Fortress North America.

Because of that, we gather around our water coolers and speak of important

In the last twenty five years the water cooler conversation has been
dominated by television programming like the last episode of MASH. That
conversation became fragmented with the television audience fragmentation
initiated by cable television.

It has become unified in a national event that transcends television

And that unification is everywhere, in a way it has never been in my life.
Of all the things we discussed, the best was at the last. "We are a creative
country. We will remain a creative country."

Yes, Jennifer, we are. We will be.