Sunday, June 12, 2011

Aviation Coverage in the Media

Oh, US media...when will you learn to check your facts when covering aviation stories?

Another example, this time from Fox News:

The media's lack of attention to detail is not limited to aircraft identification. It seems that every time a 737, A320, or regional jet has an issue in the air, the media soon starts talking about how the aircraft in question is dumping fuel. A capability, of course, that the aforementioned aircraft models lack. And it's not uncommon to witness a reporter bash corporate aviation, claiming that corporate pilots are "less experienced" and undergo less training than their airline counterparts.

I never notice this level of blatant disregard for accuracy in non-aviation coverage. But in the world of aviation, it seems that the opportunity for quick sensationalism trumps the opportunity for disciplined reporting.

The problem is not that reporters speculate, sometimes incorrectly, at the content of aviation-related news. Speculation can be constructive. The problem occurs when reporters either present this speculation as fact, or fail to specify that it is, in fact, speculation.


An airplane crashes. You're the reporter. You vaguely remember hearing your neighbor's stepcousin-in-law mention that this particular airline flies Airbus L-1011 aircraft.

Which do you report?

A) An airplane has crashed
B) An Airbus L-1011 has crashed

Far too often, reporters choose the equivalent of B and either present it as fact or fail to clearly specify that it is speculation.

That is the problem with the media. It amounts to a severe lack of discipline and professionalism. Qualities that, in most other professions, would justifiably lead to termination.

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