BMI’s Burchfiel on FBN: Media Sensationalizes Qantas Incident

July 25th, 2008 4:47 PM

The media were quick to jump on the story of an emergency airplane landing in Manila, Philippines due to a hole in the fuselage of a Qantas flight. And they were quick to sensationalize the story without mentioning Qantas' impressive safety record.

"Well, nobody's saying that we should be covering up a huge hole in the side of an airplane. But it's important for the media to not sensationalize cases like this, which they are already doing," Business & Media Institute Assistant Editor Nathan Burchfiel told Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney on the July 25 "Fox Business."

Burchfiel noted that British tabloids have already speculated that a bomb in the cargo hold may have blown a hole in the fuselage, even though there was no indication that's the case.

"This morning in the American media on ABC, David Muir said that the plane ‘instantly plummeted' 20,000 feet, which is not true," Burchfiel said. "The pilot descended 20,000 feet, rather sharply, but that was his decision, he did it under full control to normalize cabin pressure."

Varney defended the media coverage, however. "Those Europeans and those folks at ABC, I can't answer for them," he said. "But I can tell you that it's my job to put on the air the video that we've got and when we see a hole in the side of an airliner or when we talk to passengers who've been stranded on the tarmac for hours and hours and hours in dreadful conditions, I don't think we're overplaying the story. We're not sensationalizing the story."

But even the cell phone video from inside the cabin has been over-hyped by journalists, said Burchfiel.

"It's being described as ‘dramatic' and ‘terrifying,' but if you really look at the video, other than the shakiness from the cell phone camera, the people are sitting in their seats, they've got their oxygen masks, there's even a flight attendant who's kind of calmly walking up and down the aisle just checking on people," Burchfiel said.

"Obviously it's a scary situation and nobody's saying that it's not," Burchfiel said. "But part of the problem comes with the fact that this is news because it's so rare. Dramatic events like this don't happen that often and we never heard about things like the NTSB report that showed that in 2007 in this country there were zero fatalities on commercial airlines. That's a big number and we heard nothing about it."

Burchfiel said the incident was a "great opportunity for them [Qantas] to kind of fight back and say, ‘Hey, this is one incident. Nobody was even injured so cut us some slack here. But they will be attacked."

"The airlines are a pretty big target for an anti-business sentiment among a lot of the mainstream media," Burchfiel said, "and that's a problem."