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EARLY COVERAGE OF FLT 214 CRASH IGNORED THE OBVIOUS
It was very frustrating for me watching television coverage of the crash landing of a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International.
I know from sitting in the anchor chair myself that information comes slowly, and in fits and starts, and yet anchors and guests have to sit there reporting, opining, observing in between blasts of actual news. I have been there. I have committed my own share of frustrating coverage. So I make today’s comments on coverage with a guilty conscience and sympathy for those actually doing it.
However, it seemed to me that anchors and guests were ignoring the pictures we all were seeing on the screen.
The pictures clearly showed Flt 214 actually landed short of the runway. It didn’t make it to the actual runway, except after it crashed and skidded. There were debris from the tail section on the riprap rocks that line the edge of the bay where the runway begins. It was obvious the airliner didn’t fly all the way to the runway. The crew was dangerously close to putting the plane down in the water of San Francisco bay, which, by the way, might have been better than what actually happened.
I was watching all the networks. There was a notable hesitation to say out loud what was obvious, that the plane came down short of the runway.
There was, consequently, a real squeamishness to bring up the fateful two words “pilot error”. Instead we heard about weather that was of no consequence. We heard about terrorism, which was non existent. We heard about mechanical failure, which was a remote possibility, but highly unlikely. It’s one thing to go over these possibilities as a check list. But to dwell on them as real explanations was….frustrating, and a waste of time.
I don’t think the anchors and guests were blind to what was obvious to the rest of us. My theory is that after some faulty reporting on major stories recently (CNN’s Boston Bombing coverage, anyone?) people on the air are gun shy and overly cautious.
It was, therefore, up to the viewer to use his or her own eyes to see what was going on, and to listen skeptically. What was being said very often did not match up to what was being seen.