Whatever happened to …

… getting the facts right?

And then reporting.

And then correcting any error that might have been made.

In these days of fake news stories, I think that we all are a little more cautious about the news that we read.  We’ve come to rely on our trusted resources, right?  After all, they have a team of people fact checking and making sure that it’s true, right?

That wasn’t the case yesterday.

Like millions of people, I had my television on yesterday afternoon and it seemed like everything was preempted by news coverage of the incident in Fort Lauderdale.  Beyond the news story itself, I was a little concerned as I know that friends of mine have taken part of their Christmas Break in that area.

So, I flipped over to what I would consider a trusted news source – MSNBC.  There was that video and interviews of people who were witnesses to the event.  Then, as news stations tend to do, they brought in the experts to talk about the event.  At one point, an interview mentioned that the flight where the person was on originated in Canada.  That got extra attention on my part.

The experts then got into a couple of things.

First, visitors to the United States from Canada often clear customs in Canada.  That way, when you land in the US, you just get off the plane having already been interviewed.  Anyone who has ever flown through Pearson knows of the long lines as so many people are interviewed before being allowed to proceed.  As you arrive, you hope that all of the windows are open to get through in a reasonable amount of time.  So, yes, that part is absolutely true.  It can take a while but the agents I’ve encountered tend to be very professional and thorough.  Thorough can be frustrating.  Maybe it’s time to get a Nexus card.

Second, the conversation got around to how you travel with a gun.  Now, I’ve flown out of Detroit many times and I’ve been in security lines with people carrying rifle cases.  Typically, they are returning from northern Michigan where deer hunting is a major sport.  Yes, it was true; the guns are in hard cases and they check the case as baggage.  So, I agreed with that description of the process.  Then, a couple of things went through my mind – the flight in question was coming from Canada and the individual was checking a hand gun?  Hmmm.

Thirdly, and this was what got me.  The flight was identified as an Air Canada flight going from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Fort Lauderdale.  This really got my attention as I was always under the impression that Canadian flights had to either originate or end in Canada.  Air Canada wasn’t allowed to go from US city to US city.  It’s a way to protect the local flight industry.  They must have changed the law; after all, a credible news source couldn’t be wrong.  I was curious as to how many flights would fly that route so I went to the Air Canada website and tried to see.

The result?

If fact, on Twitter, Air Canada had shared this message.

And yet, the news that it was a Canadian flight continued.

Eventually, the truth became known, as we now know, the Delta flight originated in Alaska, stopped in Minneapolis-St. Paul and then a flight was taken to Fort Lauderdale.  From the news reports, Delta and Air Canada share the same terminal in Fort Lauderdale so someone had drawn a conclusion and the news reports just repeated it.  Eventually, MSNBC showed a graphic showing the flight pattern.  At least the facts were now out but if you hadn’t stuck around, you would still think that it was an Air Canada flight.

Later, I flipped over to CNN where they were still reporting that it was a Canadian flight with their experts checking in.  It didn’t stop there; my wife was reading the local newspaper online and they were reporting that it was a Canadian flight.

Back to Twitter, Air Canada asks for a correction.

By this time, I had flipped over to CTV News where this was but one story making the news.

As I think about this, I wonder – is the news business so competitive that everyone just wants to get the facts out first.  We’ll check them later?  What happens if the facts are wrong?  Shouldn’t there be a big CORRECTION noted?  How about an apology for reporting incorrectly?

We worry about fake news stories and student literacy.  We tell them to fact check with credible news resources.  What happens when the credible news resources fail?  I wonder how many other news sources had reported incorrectly as well?

For a Sunday, I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Please share them in the comments below …

  • were you following the incident from Fort Lauderdale?
  • how do you best recommend that students and others validate the news they read?
  • what news sources would you consider credible?
  • do you think that airport protocols will change in the areas where you claim your luggage?

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts. They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea. I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

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4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. What an important and timely blog post, Doug! I wonder if at the speed in which news travels, especially with the use of social media, makes everybody feel the pressure to get and report the story first. Does this change how facts are checked? Or, in this case, did a reliable source initially, make reporters think that they were right? In times of crisis, we REALLY want the news to be accurate, and this situation, definitely raises a lot of questions about that. Curious to hear what others think.

    Aviva

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I turned to CBC (online) when I’d heard the news but they too were repeating the same errors. They’d even said at one point that the suspect had been shot by police while reloading (untrue, of course). Then, as they update the breaking news, the story becomes so fragmented because they simply add the new information to the top of the article. So, if you read from top to bottom, it bounces all over the place. It doesn’t exactly follow the organization of “beginning, middle, end” that we preach in the classroom.

    The other part the bothered me was the video accompanying the article. There was a cell phone clip of police tending to a severely wounded person. (It still surprises me that people feel the urge to record instead of helping those in need.) It wasn’t intensely graphic but there was blood and someone in a very vulnerable position. I didn’t know this at the time because the fat play button obscured the backdrop but it felt dirty watching it and I quickly moved on. Regardless, it seems shock value takes precedence over dignity in reporting. The information flies so quickly that the urge to get it out there supersedes a moral compass.

    As for the teacher-writing perspective, it complicates matters. Kids have seemingly lost the skill of researching from reliable, published sources. I’ll cart in a number of books for a project but the web is their only source for information. Those that do look at the books tend to browse for pretty pictures, and when they see something that puzzles them, will ask me about it without regard for the captions or text on the page. That is all in spite of showing them how to find information in a book. This event might be a springboard for discussion in my class this week. Having written countless essays in my graduate and undergraduate days, where we relied on traditional print for information, I’d be curious to know what professors are seeing in their classes these days, both when it comes to writing structure and the reliability of content.

    Airport protocol? Of course something will change. One shoe bomber led to us taking off our shoes and half our wardrobe when passing through security. We have those revolving body scanners thanks to the underwear guy in Detroit years ago. I’m all in favour of safety, don’t get me wrong, but the actions of one or a few often spark these changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. WHen I first heard it was a flight from Canada I didn’t know the gun was in checked luggage. When I heard that it didn’t make a lot of sense that it was a flight from Canada. It was very confusing. I didn’t have a lot of time to dig into things but the report that the flight was from Alaska made a lot more sense. I do wish they would work on getting facts right and do less speculation. IT seems as if they are just trying to fill time and keep people watching. If speculation with do that they’ll do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Doug. We all need to stand up to false news. Now, more than ever, we need our journalists, and we need them to be reporting the truth.

    I have lots of thoughts on why it is essential to have a place we can go to get facts, or as President Obama said, “Where Truth Gets Eyeballs”. http://blog.donnamillerfry.com/digital-leadership-2/where-truth-gets-eyeballs/

    Keep in mind, however, that here in Ontario, you have to be able to make up a news story to graduate high school. It’s a requirement on the OSSLT.

    Like

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