Facts still as important as 'fast'

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Just the facts Ma’am, just the facts.

OK, I know this is a Dragnet quote but this could also apply to reporters. They are expected to relate the news without opinion or judgment, without editorializing or proselytizing. They are supposed to give a narrative of details, tell the story as it happened. At least, that is what I thought reporting was designed to do.

These days I don’t awe easily. I still have reactions and responses to the goings on around me but awe isn’t often one of them. But I am in awe of the CNN reporters who have spent hour after hour for 19 plus days “reporting” on an event for which they have only one fact – Malaysian Flight 370 is missing.

I had lost a bit of enthusiasm for CNN lately because of the change from an all-news format to include more documentary-type presentations. I liked to check in to see what is going on all over the world right now. There seems to be more and more multiple showings of programs about Death Row inmates, whales, pot, oil spills etc. All are very interesting and worth knowing about but it’s not why I watched CNN.

For the past almost three weeks facts don’t seem to be necessary. Since the loss of the Malaysian Boeing 777 we have had a steady diet of possibilities, maybes. The reporters and experts filled in hours and hours, days and days of airtime making up scenarios of what could have happened to that flight. They don’t have any facts other than they can’t find the plane. We were fed unlimited options, from a malfunction, terrorism by a passenger, the co-pilot or pilot, fire, lithium batteries exploding, noxious gases or smoke in the cockpit, all presented by experts. And, of course, disputed by other experts.

I was captivated by the number of ways the reporters said the same thing; mesmerized by the way they asked questions of the experts to make them seem different from the 376 times they had asked that same question of other experts. When they ran out of questions they invited the audience to tweet questions and hauled in a bunch more experts to answer those.

I have learned more about the workings of a Boeing 777, the technology of communication, air, land and underwater search equipment, radar, transponders, flight data recorders, simulators, the Indian Ocean, pings (which are not really pings at all but more like clicks), etc. The only thing I know for sure after all this many days is no one knows where Flight 370 is or how it got there. It’s all been guessing not facts, very educated guessing, no doubt, analyzing, making comparisons, but guessing nevertheless.

Unidentified debris was spotted in the Indian Ocean and after not being able to locate any of it, the authorities finally decided to just make the claim the plane went down and all on board are lost. They do not have confirmation of this claim other than mathematical deduction and as I sit and write this the families don’t believe them. They want proof.

Do the reporters and experts not realize all this guessing, predicting, conjecture, presumption, opinion, the promising ups and discouraging downs, has been the ultimate torture to the families? We cannot even imagine the pain these people have gone through.

Being first isn’t the appropriate choice if you don’t have the facts.




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