Rumours & News Reporting Points that may affect our jobs or lives as professional pilots. Also, items that may be of interest to professional pilots.

Media Paranoia.

Old 29th Jul 2008, 14:22
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JST out-satires Tom Lehrer

Am I really reading a journalist claiming that their profession doesn't make stories up because they are scared of law suits ?

I'm reminded of the Tom Lehrer quote re "satire is dead" after Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

The recent legal judgements and substantial cash awards in favour of Robert Morat and the McCann parents are two recent and obvious cases in which the newspaper's (at least four big names) and their staff (lots of journo's) were found guilty of reckless reporting, ill informed speculation, sensationalist and misleading headlines and generally behaving with total disregard for the truth and the reputation/sanity innocent people. And closer to your Antipodes, the English girl who escaped from the Deliverance type nutter was subject to some terrible treatment in the Aussie press which turned out to be complete tripe.

There's just a couple of prime instances that totally disprove your hilarious claim. I know there are a few responsible journalists out there who do their research but I know for a fact that the vast majority of them couldn't research their way out of a damp paper bag.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 14:33
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sevenstrokeroll, excellent post, great advice, little followed, sadly. With you on Aussies tho'! Fair dinkum...

Jonny Suave Trousers;
If you think becoming a prof pilot is difficult, try getting work as a journo!
The statement is not very clear. "Getting work" and "becoming a prof [sic] pilot" mean two different things. Do you mean that it's more difficult to find a job as a journalist, once trained and experienced, than it is to get the education, achieve the licenses, gain the experience and after years working for bottom-feeding cheapo outfits, get a position as an airline pilot at a major, or do you mean its tougher to find work as a journalist at a major newspaper than it is to find work at an airline? One point is about training, qualifications and experience and the other is about one's luck in landing a job and you've mixed the two in one thought.

If the former, I, and likely many here would be interested in what training journalists are required to have and what experience they need to have before landing "top" jobs in media, (tv, magazine or newspaper). By the way some journalists write it's an open question. You've compared either training or getting work as an airline pilot with the difficulty of training or getting work as a "journo". I would like to know more about the difficulties and I would like to know about what checks and balances there are on the product, notwithstanding the significant issues surrounding "subtle" editorial control, draconian censorship in many countries and the pressure to propagandize (as per Chomsky's comments in "Manufacturing Consent" and "Necessary Illusions"), so that trust and integrity is engendered.

I'm serious. I want to know how integrity is established in journalism. You've opened the dialogue and I would like to know how those issues raised in this thread, which are legitimate concerns, (which, like others, I have experienced first-hand), are resolved and handled. I'm not talking about hack reporters who don't do research. But, like our business, your business has pressures, goals, creeds and professional ethics. I would like to know about them; it may clear up some issues.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 15:32
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I suspect one of the main issues with the media is that there appears to be a lack of knowledge and a lack of research and in this day & age, that is inexcuseable.

For example, one reads of stories of an aircraft in a death-dive with the crew grimly wrestling with the controls, narrowly missing a school / orphanage / nunnery (your choice) with passengers all fearing they're gonna die, when what actually happened was a controlled in-flight engine shut-down with a straight-in approach (ie. no holding) and uneventful landing after declaring a PAN.

Or the wrong type of aircraft gets shown on TV after a return to Adelaide.

I realise there are deadlines, but how long does it take to look at the Qantas website, see from the timetable or flight-status screen that QF692 was a 767 and then put a photo of a 767 and not a 737 on the TV? All of about 15 seconds? So why did Ch.7 put a 737 up?! Because they could not be bothered checking the facts and making sure they had it right.

Can you imagine the outcome if pilots routinely ignored easily-confirmable facts? Then you and your colleagues would really have something to report on.

It's not just with respect to aviation where journalism fails. This is basic research and factual reporting I am referring to. The failure to cary this out is why people just don't trust the press any more.

I personally do have a degree of respect for you admitting your profession here and there are journos I do respect, but certainly no longer as a class.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 15:53
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I've just flown back from Africa, presumably on a plane piloted by one of you lot, where I have just spent the guts of a month writing a magazine feature about children who needlessly die from an easily treatable gum disease. The piece will be published in a national newspaper next month. In my private life, I have a serious interest in aviation, the issues, the challenges, the day to day running of the industry and so on. I'm a journalist but my interest in aviation matters doesn't make me a bottom feeding sumbag as far as I can make out. Pprune is an open forum, it's open to visitors and unless that changes, get used to it.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 20:23
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I have just spent the guts of a month writing a magazine feature
and therein lies the difference.

You were hands on doing primary research for your article. The 'journalist' that Taildragger refered to was of a different ilk. He was working against deadlines and editorial pressures. His error was succumbing to the pressures rather than ensuring the facts were right.

It has happened in the UK where even the BBC (or especially the BBC) in an effort to hit the news deadline stated the loss of the wrong aircraft from the wrong base thus needlessly terrifying the wrong set of families and giving the right set the wholly wrong impresssion.

For every human interest story that sells is a human tragedy as well. I am sure you found that out.

Yes, some journalists are different and many are scum.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 20:54
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Oh the subtle differences! The majority of those on the forum are professional pilots, wannabee's or people with an active but reasonably healthy interest in aviation. All have an equal respect for each other and an opinion on the issues that affect our industry (within limits).

Libellous drivel is generally confined to the Jet Blast forum where pretty much anything goes to entertain you and your likes.

My point is, how many professional pilots would trawl a relatively public forum on the subject of journalism and leech onto anything that took their fancy whether relevant, true or downright lies and then populate such pontificating rubbish into a daily or other media medium.

Very few I bet. Possibly it is time for the Mods to restrict another section of rumours and news to those who are solely professional pilots much as they do the airline forums to prevent such useless individuals blighting what is left of the professionalism of our industry. Occasionally we need to protect what is good for us all to ensure that we survive without the scaremongering and impossible scenario’s being reported. The QF proved that if nothing else.

Please do move on and find a forum for journo's, we will not bother or gang up on you there. Encourage your chums to go with you for which we will be eternally grateful.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 21:38
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dear Jonny,
I welcome media and guys like you that before writing a sensationalistic piece of S.. at list they research a bit.

I do agree that here sometime there is a parade of "Primadonnas" but at list they knows more than you guys and when I read in he paper "a panel was open in the air" when if fact was a landing gear door that was not closing as it shoul have. Is pathetic.

most of your colleague are aviation IDIOTS that write stories without knowing how a plane in fact is. Your category usually fly in business class (or first )as complementary gift of he airlines.. and after a couple of flut of champagne they go to sleep to generate stories.

Want a scoop? reserach where the Oxygen bottles are located in the Airbus 330 ER in the Northwest flights from Narita to US. And do somthing (YOU CAN) to promote safety and confort for those who the seats are in the cargo bay of nowadays airliners.

I welcome you in this forum.
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Old 29th Jul 2008, 22:47
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What you must bear in mind is that those of us who are involved in the aviation industry at a professional level constantly read mass media articles related to aviation matters which bear no relevance to reality. They are more attuned to the mass population who have little appreciation or understanding of the progression and commitment it takes to be in the cockpit, nor the training, re-currency, regulatory framework we work within, maintenance requirements, airworthiness requirements, check cycles for equipment and so on and so on.

The media in general lives by the rule "if it bleeds, it leads" and more often than not aviation based situations are "sensationalized" for newsworthiness.

"An aircraft landed short of the runway at XYZ airport, no passengers were injured" doesn't quite have the same impact of "AIRPLANE CRASH LANDS AT XYZ"

We do understand that, yes, you have to sell papers to survive.

Aviation is what we do and aviation is NOT a job, it is a life commitment.

We, however, have to deal with the fall out from what is irresponsible and inaccurate reporting.

Personally, I have seen an airline go from a going concern to bankrupt in less than a week due to media mis-reporting, which caused a flurry of travel companies to extract their bookings and associated funds, which are often made up to a year in advance, and a hesitation for anyone to place future business with them.

Did the circulation figures of those papers jump the days those articles were published? No they didn't, but it closed down an airline and put a lot of people out of work.

That is the hard effect of mis-reporting. It affects us, our livelihoods, our industry and our job security.

You mentioned the threat of legal action, but as a journalist you are well aware that first, a *specific individual* has to be damaged and a subsequent law suit could in effect take years to reach a resolution.

If a minor incident or "non-event" is mis-reported in relation to a specific operation, then the pilots involved will invariably be relieved from duty for the operators own commercial protection, which is understandable. If there is enough media attention a public "show" inquiry will also be held, as well as an internal one and someone will have a career ruined somewhere.

As pilots, we read accident reports not for any salacious purpose, but to understand and identify the chain of events that were involved in an incident.

While we constantly train and maintain our skill levels in dealing with critical situations, we also look to being able to prevent a critical situation from occurring.

In short, we are highly professional people who have a life commitment to what we do in our industry and when mis-reporting damages the industry, an operator, a flight crew, the strict regulations that we work within, it damages us; and we take offense to it.

It's not media paranoia, it's a reluctance to interact with the media with the knowledge of how something can be mis-quoted for sensationalist purposes.

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Old 30th Jul 2008, 00:45
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Thank you.

Not all of us are "bottom feeding scum". In fact I have a genuine interest in aviation that is the reason I come here.

Lets not forget that sales of newspapers are driven by people's demand for up to date information. Perhaps even some PP's have bought newspapers?

Its not our fault media officers often lie to us or give us releases about 15 mins from dealine.

And yes, very often, forgive the pun, we are flying blind based on their limited information.

Last edited by Jonny Suave Trousers; 30th Jul 2008 at 01:10.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 01:58
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Tarred with the same brush....

I can understand your bemoan over the stereotypical view of journalism that is apparent when Journalists and journalistic subjects are discussed in the forums here. Unfortunately the stereotype in the case of journalism is quite often justified as often a small embelishment on a true story can make a headline that attracts the audience to the media.
The media is a very powerful medium which is why governments use it for propaganda purposes - It is always worth remembering that the general public places alot of reliance in the media to inform them on subjects they are not familiar with, after all if people did not trust the content of the media they would not subscribe to it. I dont think we can blame the professionals here for being upset when reputations, integrity and the like is being presented to the public in a manner that reflects on them innacurately and in a poor light when often it is poorly researched and factually incorrect.
Whilst there will be many journalists that maintain a high code of conduct and produce highly researched informative articles - these are generally not the practices to be found in the mainstream press such as the tabloids and the news channels where working on the scoop principle the time to publish is of importance rather than the quality of the content - after all corrections and apologies can be published later. This is where journalism is generally earning its bad name.
To highlight, an example that irked me the other day was the SKY website reporting the headline Breaking News: Qantas:Cabin Door opens mid flight on its website - My limited knoweldge told me that it was highly unlikely as the cabin doors on modern airliners are like plugs and are held in place by means of pressurisation differences even if unlocked - thus when I turned to here to see if there was any information on this I found it was not the cabin door but an undercarraige door and that the quote on the forum post was from one of the newswires that any competent news agency would subscribe to. This is just one of many examples of sensationalism in the press, it grabs the headlines.
It may be of interest to you to know that I am nothing to do with the aviation industry, I am a software engineer by trade. I found this site when I wanted to know more on how the B777 landed short of the runway at Heathrow earlier this year and found a whole plethora of ideas, discussion, provocative thought and corrections of what was printed in the press at the time. I tend to read rather than comment because its not my field of expertise but after my short time here even I can sometimes spot the red herrings within the forums and the media nowadays because of the minimal knowledge I have accumulated in such a short time.
My personal view is that any journalist with a history of researching their articles rather than jumping in feet first would be respected and welcomed with open arms in all walks of life (as well as here in the forums) to ask questions about what to publish if it was to benefit an article in the media being accurate. If you scan these forums there are journalists that ask for help with facts/advice and get them with no berating and there are those that ask for gossip such as names that are fobbed off. Approach a professional in any walk of life in a professional manner and they will typically respond in a professional manner.
Apologies for the longer post - on a lighter note, to me bottom feeding scum is reserved for recruitment agents !
P.S. none of the above is a reflection or comment on yourself as I dont know I have ever encountered any of your work.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 02:17
  #31 (permalink)  
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this is meant in a humorous way...and I'm sure pro pilots will laugh.

you mentioned that pp (pro pilots) might even buy newspapers for up to date info.

NO PRO PILOT PAYS FOR A NEWSPAPER...he picks it up after a flight , used, or gets it from the hotel in which he stays...but he doesn't pay for it.

am I right guys?
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 02:51
  #32 (permalink)  
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A different take on journalism

Interesting discussion this, and close to my heart. Please forgive any excessive expression of the personal but I suspect others on this forum will identify.

I spent a career at the pointy end of an industry. Maritime shipping in all of its aspects except as crew, although I did do a bit of that in my teens, working passages.

One aspect I always deplored, and did my best to at least ameliorate, was how we as an industry communicated with other industries and with our clients. This has always been a problem with the shipping industry and it continues to be so today. I believe other industries have been more adept at grasping that nettle. I worked through our own trade associations and spent a lot of personal time just trying to explain how we thought and worked, in the belief that understanding would make things easier for all of us.

It worked. On a regional basis, the one I was most interested in targeting, it worked very well. So much so that, when I chose to retire, with a minor reputation as a “thinking head” I was called upon to be a talking one, with a somewhat louder voice, editing some industry publications and doing presentations.

That's where the conflicts arose and my understanding of journalism expanded somewhat. “Editing” means managing journalism and journalists. If you've been immersed for years in an unforgiving industrial environment, when you put things down on paper or allow others to do so, your main concern is that what's printed be accurate, precise.

The simple fact is that doesn't fit journalistic timetables. You are required to strike a balance between immediacy, i.e.being the first with the news, and what can actually be gleaned from the facts available. Nor does it fit the journalistic employment frame; forgive me it I spout anathema at you, JST, but my experience is that journalists today are taught how to write, not how to evaluate or understand. How to write on anything under the sun, and to do so to fill so many column inches. I always found that convincing them to actually think about the issues they were writing on was a very uphill battle.

And I know that's a problem worldwide. Journalists are being churned out by the thousands every year but the jobs are scarce, the media relies increasingly on press releases and whatever 'own input' they inject increasingly relies on rushed and inexperienced staff.

And that's for the media in general. The people at specialized publications like Flight International have my greatest admiration for their ability to strike tha balance between immediacy and reasoned judgment, year after year.

And as for the shipping industry communicating with other industries, or its own clients: it's improving but whew is it slow.

So that's my take on your problem. As for me, editing was temporary and, for ten years now, I've had a business more to my liking, more precise, based on fact. I still feed information to journalists but continue to see the same problem of their need for immediate soundbites, opinions and data, and I very frequently disappoint them.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 03:30
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Johnny, I've seen PPrune openly quoted in the SMH (online admittedly...). About 2-3 weeks ago. From memory it was in regards to the recent uncontrolled airspace issue.

It isn't worth quoting anything on PPrune just as it isn't worth quoting something you overhear in the local pub.

In regards to contradiction - like any profession, there are sometimes differing opinions about how things "should be done".
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 06:26
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We are not against you guys.

If you read my post further back you will understand we have big issues with late worded down press release's as a deliberate damage control tactic. Alot of information is lost and you may have to use google as a resource.

This is a form of censorship. If we didnt do the work some of you dislike us for, you would only ever get tizzied up press release statements.

Put yourself in the shoes of SLF for a minute. If you were to read a 'diplomatic' statement such as "the company is undertaking a thorough investigation and the persons involved are being counselled" would you really be satisfied with that? Or would you perhaps be a little upset that you are clearly being patronised?

I, like alot of you here am very opposed to any form of censorship. What would you do?
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 07:50
  #35 (permalink)  

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Let's have some censorship! What is so wrong with this rigorous form of editing, when it is applied to hard scientific facts?
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 09:19
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Personally, I don't even watch corporate tv news or read mainstream popular press anymore. I, like many others get my news from small sites on the net. When I watch the boob tube or read the paper rag, I come away with the same empty feeling I used to get at management "meetings" for the employees. Nothing important is ever revealed and you get the whole feeling the charade is actually not meant to inform you of anything useful or true, but rather only designed to manipulate your outlook on the subject; or give you the false impression that something is being done; when really what is actually in play is a political struggle for profits or position. This is why you'll find the ratings of these "news" shows in the states going down the drain. We're tired of being lied to all the time. We get enough of that from management all day long.

As pilots or mechanics, it's pretty clear to us that most of the mainstream reporting is horrible. So we know we can't trust the press on something as important as election results or WMD's.

But this is systemic of a bigger problem. The fallacy of the central Anchorman or reporter as a credible authority on all subjects is what is the cause of all this grief. That this one man must know every thing since he puts the spin on every story that comes down the wire is by itself preposterous. What you get instead is a moron like Dan Ratther who mis-reports every aviation story he's ever covered. Calls the space shuttle a simple "space truck" and sits there in front of the camera landing a model of it like a little kid on the desk sodomizing every known law of aerodynamics and physics ever know since Grog on B.C. He clearly knows less than nothing about most subjects he covers and would still be there if he hadn't insisted on covering the GWB AWOL air national guard story (so Dan, now I like you and you're gone....dnmit!)

How can anybody in our society learn anything at all with the idiot anchorman at the wheel every night?

IMHO, we have to teach our children to shun the mainstream press and use google to get their information. Not what you wanted to hear, I know.

That's what I think.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 10:04
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In nearly twenty years in ATC, I don't believe I've seen one story in the press which came anywhere near factual reporting on this, one of the most mis-understood workplaces around. Whereas pilots read with dismay of "plunged" and "grimly struggled", we have to put up with "chaos", "came within seconds of colliding" and worse.

3 examples:

Many years ago a journalist was shown around the ACC/Twr by a couple of controllers. She was doing a general interest story on the different stages of controlling a flight from ground to flight and back to ground. She wrote it all down and all the correct terminology was explained to her - she appeared to have a good grasp of what she was hearing. I was there when she allowed one of my colleagues to look over her notes. They looked fine and he suggested a couple of minor changes. Not only were the changes ignored, but there appeared in a respected daily newspaper two days later the greatest load of tosh that I've ever seen written about this job. How could she get it so mixed up?

Around the same time, we awoke one Sunday morning to find that on the previous day, a plane had "spectacularly dive-bombed" another on the "slip-road" at the airport. This was the headline on page 1 of a respected Sunday paper. The source, it turned out, was someone working in an office in the terminal. As far as I'm aware, no-one in ATC was consulted on this. What had actually occurred was a routine go-around from about 2nm final.

And finally, one of my colleagues was approached through pm on these forums by a journalist for comment on a story. What was eventually used in the paper was lifted directly from the thread, quoted somewhat out of context. So journos do use pprune.

Oh, I have seen one ATC story of bang-on accuracy - that was in a well-known satirical political magazine. Such was their knowledge of the outrageous events reported, and their easy familiarity with terms such as "controlled airspace" that it looked like it came from a leak. And they wisely printed it without screwing it up.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 10:23
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Press releases


Appreciate that you are not against "us guys" and understand that there is an issue with late worded press releases and diplomatic statements.

Herein lies the area in which conflict arises, in that journalists are of course under a deadline and under pressure from editors and commercial factors.

What in the context of aircraft operations is usually an non-event or a minor problem is often overtly exaggerated due to the commercial pressures of your industry.

And yes it is understood that press releases could be viewed as a 'diplomatic' statement or deliberate damage control. Lets look briefly at these two points you mention.

1. intrinsically, yes, there is an element of deliberate damage control. why? because public perception towards an operator's safety is paramount to the operators continued existence. Operators are all too aware that a mis-placed word will likely be taken out of context by the media. after all, you have your commercial pressures to consider also.

2. intrinsically, no, there is not an element of deliberate damage control. until the circumstances of an incident have been fully understood, it would be foolish to release information to the press. This was particularly prevalent in the NTSB investigation into the AA191 accident in 1979. We are all aware of the effects that can occur.

3. in the event of an incident, the appropriate bodies will investigate, depending on the country of registration / incident location. it is not the place of the operator. As such the operator is not able to cite any cause of an incident until the appropriate bodies have concluded their investigations.

4. with liability law suits it would be foolish and an act of self destruction for an operator to release anything other than a diplomatic statement. legal activity can also severely hinder an investigation by the involved parties being limited on what information they can release by legal precedent.

5. incident investigation will likely involve the state of manufacture, the state of registry, the state of incident and so on.

Again, I can continue with the points, but let's save server space here.

What this comes down to is that in the even of an incident an operator can only release the information it can. it may seem like you are being patronized by the aviation industry, but the reality is that a press release can only include information that doesn't relate to a specific cause until the investigation has been concluded by the appropriate bodies.

As I am sure you have noticed, although i am a commercial pilot, I also act an outsourced consultant to aircraft operators and have not only dealt with but also structured contingency standards.

Also, bear in mid that a press release is often generated through an operators 'media relations' or 'pr' department. while they are adept in dealing with the media on new route structures, product re-branding, improvements in services etc. they are not a department that has experience or knowledge to deal with such press attention.

While you, as a journalist, may feel you are given information that is deliberate damage control or patronizing, the reality is that you are being given information that is appropriate both legally and commercially until an investigation has been concluded. That is not censorship.

And as such, it leads to sensationalizing of incidents, mis-reports and non-events being reported and the interview of an "aviation specialist" unconnected with any area of the incident being on camera or in print in the 'information void'.

There is no form of legislation, review of procedures or adjustment of authority control that will change this, which is why the aviation industry and the media industry are often at odds in the 'information void'.

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Old 30th Jul 2008, 11:04
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and, er, Safety = Facts

I guess that one of the things that journo.s don't grasp, but that everyone in Aviation does grasp, is the obsession that Aviation folk have with Safety. Making Aviation safer for to-morrow is a global concern. Thus, we are all seeking facts and knowledge - all the time, daily if not hourly. Real facts, not invented ones. We might test and challenge theories whilst establishing the facts, but our next safe flight needs those facts.
That sort of culture is a long way away from newsrooms.
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Old 30th Jul 2008, 11:11
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this illustrates the point being made quite concisely, from another forum post that you have contributed to also.

"This morning, the biggest selling paper in Melbourne (Herald Sun) had an article about a Qantas flight being canceled because of a maintenance issue that was unable to be rectified in time"

Lets look at the issue that has placed Qantas in the media spotlight. There was an issue with a failure of a piece of equipment installed by the manufacturer of a Qantas aircraft.

Qantas did not manufacture the failed item. the aircraft landed safely and no-one was injured.

Qantas immediately took efforts to inspect all similar aircraft in it's fleet before being advised to do so.

It is not the position of Qantas to determine if their aircraft have been maintained in accordance with the manufacturers and the regulatory guidelines, that is down the regulators.

if there is an issue of the manufacturer quality then that is applicable to the manufacturer, not Qantas.

And so on.

Now we see a concerted effort by the media to print reports of anything Qantas related in terms of safety.

Lets look at the Herald Sun report of Qantas canceling a flight due to maintenance not being completed in time for a scheduled departure.

How is that newsworthy? The point of this story is what ? it serves nothing in terms of anything. the only thing it does is present to the public that there is an issue with Qantas safety, by way of the media attention, driven by a desire to print detrimental information for the purpose of selling newspapers.

Would a story title "Nothing happened today" be interesting? no it wouldn't.

In legal terms, could Qantas take legal redress against the Herald Sun ? for what? printing fact?

however, even though it is fact it is subjective in that affects a perception perpetrated by negative and mis-direction of media reports.

Libel is one thing, perception is another.

So this very incident answers your whole question and thoughts on "media paranoia" and any press release Qantas made concerning this issue would be considered patronizing or deliberate damage control.

Now perhaps you can understand the animosity towards the media of the aviation industry.
Bruce Wayne is offline  

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