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What should journalists say?

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What should journalists say?

Old 24th Mar 2015, 19:09
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What should journalists say?

What should journalists say in the wake of an accident like today's?

I understand that the right answer in the minds of most PPRuNers is "Nothing", but in the wake of an accident, there is a voracious appetite for content, and a journalist knows that if he doesn't fill that need, someone else (perhaps someone even less knowledgeable) will fill the gap.

A journo chum had about one hour's notice that he would be going on BBC Radio Berks as an aviation expert. He wrote the following, and pretty well read it out verbatim, ignoring attempted interruptions in order to ensure that he got his point across.

How did he do?

"Like most aerospace professionals (especially airline pilots) I don't like speculation in the wake of an accident, and the first thing that should be said is that we should always let the investigators get on with doing their jobs. It takes many months to investigate an aircraft crash properly, and we’re trying to do so in mere hours – the listeners should place all media reports in this context and should be aware that there is seldom a single cause of any accident (rather there is what the experts term a "chain of events") and they should reassure themselves that the aircraft type in itself is safe.

In this case there is an expectation that the FDR/VCR – the ‘black boxes’ that we hear about after such accidents will be recovered fairly quickly, despite the difficult terrain. The debris field is apparently in an area without much snow, so real answers about the likely cause of the accident should be significantly quicker to reach than has been the case in other recent high profile air accidents.

The cause of this accident is a mystery, although some are already speculating about it, as is perhaps inevitable, and we do have a few facts about the accident, and lots of speculation!

There have been reports of a few recent uncommanded nose downs in the Airbus, including one in which a Lufthansa crew had to make considerable efforts to disconnect the AP to regain control. Such an explanation does not fit with the facts as they are known here, since it would not stop the crew from communicating with ATC.

There have been some comparisons with a Lufthansa A321 incident which occurred near Bilbao last year, with iced up sensors causing a loss of 4,000 feet of altitude.

In this case, however, no icing was expected at the aircraft’s cruising altitude, and had the sensors frozen during the climb, the problem would have manifested itself earlier.

(Germanwings chief pilot, asked about the A321 iced sensors incident said that the sensors in question had been replaced with newer models in the A320 that crashed).

The relatively long (8 minute) descent at a rapid but not abnormally rapid rate of descent without any radio communication might suggest some degree of incapacitation on the part of the crew, at least, and would tend to point attention away from any sudden and catastrophic decompression – such as might be caused by a bomb onboard or by the impact of a SAM, which would cause damage that would result in a steeper faster fall of most wreckage. In any case an explosion would probably have scattered the debris over a much larger area.

A rapid but less catastrophic depressurization would give the crew about 15-20 seconds of useful consciousness at FL400 after the time the oxygen supply had been interrupted. That’s plenty of time for the crew to don their oxygen masks and make a distress call.

Some have suggested that a more gradual pressurization failure could be to blame, leaving the crew unaware of the fact that they might be suffering from hypoxia (oxygen starvation) until it was too late to do anything about it.

As an aircraft climbs the onset of Hypoxia can be such that no-one notices it is happening.... a bit like a frog in pan of cold water that is gradually heated up to boiling?

But if the crew were rendered unconscious in this way, we would expect the aircraft to continue to fly straight and level for hours, controlled by the autopilot (like the Helios incident in Greece some years ago). Yet the fact that the aircraft began to descend, apparently under control, would seem to suggest that the crew must have overridden the Autopilot and initiated a descent, unless anyone can hypothesise a scenario in which the pilots could manage to set the aircraft in a steady descent, but not to don masks or make a Mayday call before being knocked out.

However, if the crew were conscious enough to start the descent, then surely they were conscious enough to don their masks, contact ATC/declare a Mayday/or at the very least squawk a 77000 emergency code?

And in any case, on the A320 there are several warnings that would alert the crew to this in good time. A320 pilots say that at least one of these is effectively impossible to miss."

The radio host thanked him, and even reiterated his point about the danger of speculation in these cases!

No better than Chris Yates? Worse? What's a constructive suggestion for making reporting better?
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 19:23
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Well, the BBC would have done better not to highlight "how far off the planned route" the flight was, their map showing the planned route being a dead straight line from BCN to Dusseldorf!

Basically, they should stick to verifiable facts and stop rushing to be the first to broadcast a load of old bollocks. And stop revelling in showing grieving relatives and deleted airport information boards. Cover the facts without embellishment, exaggeration or speculation and then move onto the next story - when you run a feature all day on one event, you are going end up spouting bull very quickly and very frequently.

Unfortunately, while refraining from the usual glaring errors, your friend had quickly focused on one scenario and excluded all others. I think he has painted a very narrow picture and all but identified a cause which is in fact pure speculation (and one I don't find especially plausible). Ironic given his initial comments about avoiding doing exactly that.

Why can't journalists just admit what they don't yet know and say they'll produce updates when the information is available instead of pretending to have all the answers the moment something happens?

Last edited by Aluminium shuffler; 24th Mar 2015 at 19:55.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 19:40
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Actually that is all pretty good Jacko. (Perhaps if I'm being picky I would skip the bit about if there was enough oxygen to start a descent etc. Pull to descend might use the last bit of consciousness.)

The one thing I would say is before any broadcast, run it past a pilot as a howler check.

There are loads on PPRuNe who would do it for free. 5 mins before broadcasting anything, and particularly before using a picture (they are always wrong!) contact any one of the plausible types on here and get them to idiot check the script. Ideally get a relevant ppruner, but most know enough broad knowledge to filter the worst howlers.

It could be a PPRuNe service.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 19:48
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i presume that he called it a CVR and not a VCR live on the air ?!
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 19:50
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Tourist. The problem is that there's seldom time (or budget) to write a script, and one is forced to 'wing it'. My colleague was lucky enough to have time to write it out first (and, by the look of it, to have had time to read through the PPRuNe thread, too....).

Maybe PPRuNe's august experts and journo members should formulate a basic 'Press Release' - outlining the facts as they are known, and some basic explanations of what could have happened, together with any "but not in this case because" riders.

But who would pay?
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 20:10
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Basically, they should stick to verifiable facts and stop rushing to be the first to broadcast a load of old bollocks. Cover the facts without embellishment, exaggeration or speculation and then move onto the next story
Agree !

This is what journalists should do.

Stick to the facts. If there are no new facts, cover other unrelated stories until such time as new facts emerge.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 20:20
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The Beeb (on Radio Five) repeatedly referred to it as the Voice Cockpit Recorder.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 20:29
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I'm all in favour of debunking the rubbish theories.
It needed a summary to say that causes remain unknown, and reassurance about the safety of the industry, Airbus and Lufthansa with a few real numbers.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 20:41
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stop revelling in showing grieving relatives and deleted airport information boards
Agree, report the known facts, don't display the misery... There's other news out there that can pad out your bulletin.
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Old 24th Mar 2015, 22:14
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.... a bit like a frog in pan of cold water that is gradually heated up to boiling?
Which is bollocks, I'm afraid, and hardly encourages confidence in the rest.

snopes.com: Slow Boiled Frog
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 00:25
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All journo's should SHUT THE [email protected] UP. By definition they will be hunting every single scrap of info, down to the vaguest rumor. Until the experts, not the TV experts, speak, we should just wait.
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 01:09
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hunting every single scrap of info, down to the vaguest rumor
Including here.

http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/5...ml#post8915520
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 04:53
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"Just the facts, ma'am".


Of course that is a recipe for considerable dead air and vacant looks.


Your chum did pretty well. It's 7700 tho' and I would have left out the bit about the frog in the saucepan.
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 04:55
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Jacko

Either we're in differing threads or you've been absent for quite awhile. Welcome back.
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 05:38
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What should journalists say in the wake of an accident like today's?
Time, day, date, location, airline, aircraft type, flight identity, number of passengers, number of crew, origin, destination, terrain and weather.

For example; Received this morning, 10th September 2011 at 11.00. A SmartAir Boeing 737, flight number ZZ123 has gone missing on a scheduled flight from Hereabouts to Thereabouts. The aircraft was crossing the Gulf of Whatsit in fine weather when it disappeared from radar at approximately 06.00 and is feared lost. There were 2 pilots, 9 cabin crew and 83 passengers on board.

Now, how to repeat that in a thousand different ways and make it last 24 hours ...
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 10:13
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With 523 posts in 24 hours on the rumour thread for this subject, most of which are unprofessional speculation, we members of this forum are not well placed to criticise.

The 24-hour News channels are of course difficult to fill without a lot of journalistic waffle and repetitive speculation, so when it's the turn of some "story" in our field of knowledge, the best plan is to not switch the TV on.
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 11:10
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I believe it was Pythagoras who said something along the lines of, "Keep silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence."

Obviously not taught on the Journalist school curriculum.
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 13:19
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Obviously not taught on the Journalist school curriculum.
And how much, exactly, do journos get paid for saying nothing?
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 13:45
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Or Abe Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt".
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Old 25th Mar 2015, 14:05
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Like most aerospace professionals (especially airline pilots) I don't like speculation in the wake of an accident
Not true, of course.

Whilst fully feeling the tragedy of the incident, pilots cannot help speculate over incidents and accidents. I don't know of a single pilot who doesn't - it's the reason why PPRuNe accident threads run on so long.

What pilots DON'T like is uninformed or poorly thought out speculation.
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