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Drill radio traffic leads to news scare

2009-09-12 22:50:27.410051+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

Is the Coast Guard or CNN to blame for false-alarm scares yesterday? I'm linking to this one to keep it around for when someone brings up the "can't we just grab that off the police scanner?" topic in the "open data" discussions.

Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism center in St. Petersburg, Fla., also told the LA Times: “It’s a really dangerous practice to use radio traffic as your principal source of information, because it so often turns out to be incorrect.”

[ related topics: Journalism and Media Law Enforcement ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-12 23:35:30.602211+00 by: ziffle [edit history]

It was weird wasn't it? The timing was spot on to cause confusion. Makes me wonder if we are getting the true story.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 00:56:08.751112+00 by: Dan Lyke

I actually wasn't aware of it 'til today. As for timing, I was only reminded that yesterday was an anniversary of an attack on the U.S. when the reminiscences started flowing across my Twitter feed. I could easily see someone on Thursday saying "let's do a drill tomorrow", and someone else saying "okay".

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 01:48:12.926783+00 by: meuon

It was all a CIA backed coverup of the true story: Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppet Gang were about to take over Washington DC, with a fresh slogan: "We are your puppet masters!"

From a logistical standpoint, running exercises on such a day is a good way to have all of your strategic assets in action ready for just about anything.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 04:50:12.109528+00 by: Larry Burton

It was kind of like if the Navy had had an air raid drill in Honolulu on December 7, 1949.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 11:22:16.319511+00 by: ziffle

Larry - yes! or maybe even if they had it on December 7, 1959 ten years too late LOL!

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 12:18:50.250349+00 by: m

As little as I trust any military organization, I trust CNN less.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-13 17:10:40.91215+00 by: petronius

I remember commenters in HuffPost claiming that the famous no-fatality air crash into the Hudson river was timed to upstage Obama's inauguration. The truth is out there.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-14 00:52:04.351747+00 by: m

Petronius, its true. I was the one inn a secret personal jetpack, just off the Laguardia runway. I threw the specially bred engine homing geese into the airlplanes intakes.

meuon, running exercise drills for NORAD appeared to be an excellent way to have all our tactical assets out of the way, and ready for no defensive action on 9-11.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-14 16:11:10.996721+00 by: JT

It appears CNN needs to verify things before airing them, especially if they have a single source of information that is unverified with any official with knowledge of what is actually happening within their organization at that time. Making public knowledge of every training effort would be a perfect way to notify people (good or bad) to know our drills, our procedures, and find possible shortcomings in those procedures and protocols. It appears to me that CNN just needs to stop, take a breath, count to 10, then find a second source before throwing something on TV. Having "the scoop" seems a little less important than having the correct information to me. Of course, I'm just a consumer, so what do I know?

I can't find a clip, but a few years ago, Jon Stewart was playing clip after clip of news helicopters of all major news agencies, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc... the entire time saying "We don't know what's going on..." while circling a plane parked at the end of a runway. It just made me wonder why they were reporting anything if they didn't know what was going on. Turned out the pilot thought he heard something when he landed and wanted a mechanic to check the tires before taxiing to the gate. The news agencies seemed to make it seem like it was a huge hijacking issue when all they had was a plane parked at the end of a runway. In the end, the news agencies never reported what the issue was, the Daily Show staff had to contact the airport to find out what had actually happened. It appears the news agencies just stopped covering it when they found out what it was instead of reporting the actual issue and just taking their licks and moving on.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-14 16:40:53.891307+00 by: petronius

Does anybody remember the time in 1992 the first president Bush threw up during a state dinner in Tokyo? In a hope for a scoop, CNN was about to announce that they had an unconfirmed report that the president had just died. You see the reporter getting ready to say it when a voice off-camera screams "NO, NO, NO!!!" The reporter hesitates, and stands down.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-09-14 18:02:36.334686+00 by: Dan Lyke

JT, I'm reminded of that adage: If you see it in a news outlet, you don't need to know about it.

I think there are three parts to any story:

  1. the local aspect, the "how do I need to change my behavior patterns given all this Coast Guard traffic on the Potomac".
  2. the national aspect, the "how does this change my stance in the financial markets or on national security".
  3. then, of course, there's the "ooh, let's slow down to look at the accident" angle.

Seems like major media is mostly focused on #3, blogs are generally focused on #2, and Twitterers are on #1. Something is wrong with that.

One of the things I'd like to see is to get law enforcement and organizations like the Coast Guard more involved in doing #1 directly: See Coast Guard or police helicopters doing stuff in your neighborhood? Check the CG or police web site news feed.

This isn't easy, and law enforcement organizations have traditionally let the news media do a lot of the filtering (for instance, the local police give the media a feed of arrest information that a lot of private stuff gets deleted from before it hits the "police blotter" column), but as the advertiser supported media gets more and more focused on #3, we need to be building more structures to do #1 and #2.