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The Clear Channel list was markedly different than the programming efforts
of other radio stations, who tried to figure out which songs to add to playlists fol-
lowing the tragedies. Only Clear Channel focused on what to take away.
Among the songs listed in the Clear Channel email were "Fly ," "Jet Airliner ,"
"Devil in Disguise ," "Only the Good Die Young ," "Great Balls of Fire ," "Crash
Into Me ," "Dancing in the Streets ," and many more.
When the story hit the mainstream press, most journalists got the story wrong.
In a series of lapsed journalistic judgments, reporters were too quick to believe
that the list existed, and then quick to believe it was a hoax.
By the time the story reached its peak, it had been distributed through every
major news wire service and had been published or used in almost every news
outlet in the United States. The original story stated that Clear Channel overtly
banned the songs to avoid consternation and controversy in the wake of the trag-
edies, which wasn't true.
The list originally existed in several versions, and circulated among colleagues
at local radio stations. They were then compiled by Evans and e-mailed from cor-
porate management to all the stations under Clear Channel's ownership.
While the management e-mail did not call for an overt ban of songs, it did ask
that programmers use "restraint" when selecting songs for airplay.
The story was initially reported on several radio industry Web sites on
September 14
, hitting the mainstream media on September 17
, led by a story
Initially, Clear Channel played down the importance of the list.
Spokesperson Pam Taylor spun the list as the sole work of Evans. She said Evans
compiled a list "he thought might have some songs on it that might cause height-
ened sensitivity given the tragic events last week."
"It was one man's attempt to help program directors. No one was forced to do
it," Taylor continued. "If there had been one single corporate-wide list that was
sent to all program directors saying, `Don't play this,' there would be a lot of
people ready to take up arms saying that's censorship of the airwaves."
When the story stayed in the press for the next few days, Clear Channel changed
tactics and undertook an effort to deny the list entirely. The company released a
cleverly worded press statement titled, "Clear Channel Says National `Banned
Playlist' Does Not Exist." In the release, the company stated, "Clear Channel
Radio has not banned any songs from any of its radio stations." The release quoted
Clear Channel Chief Operating Officer Mark P. Mays as saying, "Clear Channel
strongly believes in the First Amendment and freedom of speech. We value and
support the artist community. And we support our radio station programming