Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Media Hack: Will Exploit for a By-Line

I’m sure everyone is well aware of the Metro accident in DC that has claimed nine souls, and I’m sure you’ve read some of the "information" out there. I’ve included here the AP story, just so I can point out examples of why today’s media hacks annoy me so. To my mind, blue font is factual, maroon font is just plain incendiary and meant to elicit an emotional response, which highly aggravates yours truly. Read on:

WASHINGTON — Crews dismantled the wreckage Tuesday from a subway train collision that killed nine people and injured scores of others in the nation's capital, and a federal investigator revealed an old train involved in the crash should have been replaced because of safety concerns.

The Metrorail transit system kept the old trains running despite warnings in 2006, said Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the crash and whether age played a role in the rush-hour collision Monday.

The crash sent more than 70 people to hospitals. Metro officials said two men and seven women, all adults, were killed.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an earlier news conference that seven people were killed and he hoped the death toll did not climb any higher.

Hersman said
investigators expect to recover recorders from a newer train that was stopped along the tracks waiting for another to clear the station ahead. But the old train that barreled down the tracks and triggered the collision was part of aging fleet and not equipped with the devices, which can provide valuable information on the cause of a crash.

Hersman told The Associated Press that the NTSB had warned of safety problems and recommended the old fleet be phased out or retrofitted to make it better withstand a crash. Neither was done, she said, which the NTSB considered "unacceptable."

Metro officials planned to replace the old trains, but were years away from them rolling on the tracks.

AP - Probe Launched Into D.C. Subway Crash

It was the worst crash in the history of Metrorail, the pride of the District of Colombia tourism industry that has shuttled tourists and commuters around Washington and to Maryland and Virginia suburbs for more than three decades.

The operator of the train that collided into the stopped cars was identified as Jeanice McMillan, 42, of Springfield, Va., according to Metro officials.

McMillan was hired in March 2007 as a bus driver and was tapped to become a train operator in December, but it wasn't immediately clear whether she had control of the cars.

Metro has a computerized system on most trains during rush hour that is supposed to control braking, speeds and prevent collisions. The system, however, has failed before.

In June 2005, in a tunnel under the Potomac River, a train operator noticed he was getting too close to the train ahead of him even though the system indicated the track was clear. He hit the emergency brake in time, as did the operator of another train behind him.

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith didn't know the outcome of the investigation into that incident, which she called "highly unusual."

The crash Monday occurred on the red line near the D.C. and Maryland border,
in an area where higher train speeds are common because there is a longer distance between stops. Trains can go 55 to 59 miles per hour, though the train's speed hasn't yet been determined.

* * * * there's more, but it's pure filler from here on, so I've dumped it * * * *

Associated Press writers Brett Zongker, Sarah Karush and Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.

So, in effect, these "professional" news reporters have loosed the speculation that: a) the crash was caused by an old train; b) because it was an "old" train the NTSB may never know what really happened; c) the driver was unqualified; d) the automated computer controls were down; and e) the train was speeding! And why (why!?!?) is anyone from the NTSB spouting off anything before even the preliminary investigation is complete?!? Anyone remember what the media did to Richard Jewell? Yeah, me too.

Here's the deal; it may well be that some, or even all, of these suppositions end up being true. But they may not. What if the driver stroked out, or had a seizure, and was incapacitated or already deceased by the time her train split itself in two while ramming into the other from behind? What if it truly was an accident? Yes, the truth (as the media see's it, through a veil of "what is sensationalist enough to make people want to read?") would also be in print and broadcast, but with nowhere near as much vim and vigor.

All I'm saying is that these are real people, living real lives just like the rest of us ... their loved ones don't need the added insult and aggravation of being tried and convicted in the press before the metal of the wreckage even has a chance to cool down.

1 comment:

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

I took a J-B class in high school yonks ago. If I had turned in that crap as journalism I would have flunked.

Nowadays? Bah! Who cares? Just make a news story controversial so it sells more.


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