Some Common Sense on the Midway Plane Crash

December 9th, 2005 2:32 PM

I have just watched the orgy of press coverage on the Southwest plane that ran off the runway and into the street from Midway Airport in Chicago, last night. Despite the fact that the investigators said repeatedly that they would "get all the facts" and "review all possible causes to rule them in, or out," reporters persisted in questions demanding that the investigators guess about the cause of the accident.

When the experts could not be bullied or tricked into guessing about the cause of this accident, the press jumped into the breach of irresponsibility, with both feet. On Fox, CNN and MSNBC, there was speculation that "the plane never should have landed in that weather at that time." The same speculation sprouted up in the print media as well, per Google News. The press have even played clips or used quotes from ordinary citizens who raised this precise question.

Still, there was a fact available to all these reporters which belies this speculation, and every reporter who's ever gotten out of Peoria, has to know this. Here it is:

At any busy airport, planes are scheduled to land behind each other with a separation time of 90 seconds to two minutes, maximum. Any reporter who has ever traveled through Atlanta, Chicago, or any other busy airport, has seen this for himself/herself. There is no indication now that there was any abrupt weather change, like a wind shear, in the minutes before this plane landed and then slid off the runway. So, this flight did not face a unique weather situation. And Midway IS a busy airport.

Therefore, any competent reporter who bothers to think about the situation knows that two or three planes landed safely and without incident on this very runway, in the five minutes before the Southwest plane landed. Any reporter who is on the scene in Chigago could employ a little shoe leather, find out what flights immediately proceeded this one, and maybe even locate and talk to the pilots on those other flights. But no one has done that.

Have they all forgotten Journalism 101? Get the relevant facts. Safe landings of other planes at almost the same time strikes this blogger as relevant. Then report the facts. Oh, there's a correlary to that. Speculation is no substitute for reporting.

Good reporters report facts. Lazy reporters use speculation as a substitute for real reporting. It's understandable why most of the mainstream media have gone the lazy route on this plane accident. But why hasn't just one followed up on this obvious lead?