Catering to New Sensitivities

Americans' shared quest for a constructive response to the Sept. 11 attacks may be taking some rough edges off popular culture. Consider talk radio, often the purveyor of unfiltered vitriol. A number of hosts have steered discussions away from revenge and bigotry.

Many people want to learn what lies behind the attacks and whether there are solutions. Booksellers in some cities note a run on books about Islam and the Middle East.

Polls indicate that gritty "reality" TV shows are slipping in popularity. Instead, the public wants gentler entertainment (see story, page 2).

The realization that less inflammatory shows may be more appealing has even reached the World Wrestling Federation. Usually quick to concoct villains who play on international crises (e.g., the Iron Sheik during the hostage crisis of the early '80s), the WWF is holding off. Instead, it's promoting all-American-hero types, and trying to stay within the bounds of what a spokeswoman called "conscientious programming."

Which goes to show that needed sensitivity can surface even in the most unlikely places.

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