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Boogers

News Reporting of Skydiving Accidents

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I started to put this in an Incident thread where they're talking about bad news reporting of skydiving accidents, but decided that it's likely to get deleted there for being off-topic, so I figured I'd start a thread here instead.

I went looking for that recent news about how robots are now being employed to write news stories. And look what I found, our old friend Dan Poynter: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/media-lab/244113/robot-to-write-1-million-stories-in-2014-but-will-you-know-it-when-you-see-it/

So, I think we should endeavor to write a generic fill-in-the-blank script that news organization robots would use to report upon every skydiving accident. I'll start.
"A skydiver was (injured/killed) yesterday after jumping from an airplane at (13,500) feet at (Dropzone name) in (City). The skydiver's parachute (failed to open/was caught in a wind gust) causing them to hit the ground hard. Emergency services was called and transported the person to the hospital. The name of the victim is being withheld pending notification of family. Local authorities are investigating the accident, and the FAA has been notified."
There, that should get the robot started. All the reporter needs to do is fill in a few blanks, and we have a generic news report, similar to those we already see in newspapers across the country.

Feel free to spice it up a little and add your own robot text.

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Boogers


:|:S

Poynter.org is not the same as Dan Poynter.


And to be honest, who cares what the whuffo press report or how they report it? Even with a generic script they'll still get it wrong or just make it up entirely if no facts are forthcoming.

Why? Because only a tiny tiny percentage of people actually care about the facts of an incident - skydivers. To the rest of the general public it's just a quick sensational story. The details aren't important to them, so they're not important to journalists...

If you haven't dealt with the press before I strongly suggest that in every case the best answer is 'no comment' if you ever do. Supplying them with information, even just 'background information' simply gives them a name to add to 'facts' and a story which they'll alter to fit their agenda - and that isn't the accurate reporting of an incident.

Here's the generic script a bot can use:
A skydiver died today at . The dropzone and skydiving community declined to comment saying an active investigation is underway, but pass on their sympathies to friends and family.

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fastphil

Slow day at work??



Exactly. The work computer was down, so I was surfing the internet, which is always up. So I was bored and my idle mind put together two events; the robot news story, and the whuffo news reporting of skydiving accidents. Feel free to ignore my bored ramblings... :-)

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Robots can write about earthquakes because a lot of the information is instantly available and already on the internet before humans have gotten over the "we're having an earthquake!" stage of excitement.

Skydiving incidents would be much, much harder since generally speaking skydivers are the only ones who know about the incident and are generally cool enough to not tweet out all the gory details and especially not names until relatives can be notified.

I don't think we'll be seeing a crater report written by a robot for awhile yet.

It'll just seem like it.
quade -
The World's Most Boring Skydiver

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Quote

it's likely to get deleted there for being off-topic,



Yeah, ya think? Massive wipeouts of posts in 2 of the Incidents threads overnight. It's really a shame they can't/don't spin those off into a new thread instead of just "disappearing" so many otherwise-thoughtful posts so they can't be seen. The net effect of that really dilutes the overall value of the Incident forum. Yeah, I understand the rebuttal to that, but I'm hardly the first one to comment on it.

Anyhow, to help continue the conversation, here are a few comments that got deleted. Maybe people can pick it up from here, if they choose:

==================================



Quote

******Terrible news reporting. I guess since the DZ refused to talk to them they said whatever they felt like



Unlike all the other times when a DZ is totally open and the news still says whatever they feel like, huh?


Let's draw from Twardo's post #6 in the Grove City injury thread. If you have a designated spokesperson at a DZ after an incident, that hopefully will at least increase, even if not guarantee, the chance of more factually accurate reporting by a reporter who will almost certainly be a layperson to the very specialized subject of skydiving. On the other hand, if the DZ simply goes silent, then in many cases - and this does seem to be one - that probably increases the chances of factually poor reporting like "it's not known if the wingsuit parachute opened properly", etc.

Another aspect of sensible post-incident conduct by a DZ is not just informational, but also behavioral. Crosskeys is a busy, larger DZ which is situated partly among heavily residential neighborhoods. Of course they have their share of incidents; and some of the accidents, not just this one, have had landing/impact points on nearby residents' properties. So community relations is always a potential issue. So community relations is always a potential issue. That being the case, I don't see how the DZ management could not anticipate how resuming jumping just 2 hours after a fatality that landed in a nearby resident's back yard would be viewed, and reported on.


===============================================

Quote

***
Sadly, that does seem to be the single most common reported reason.
"Parachute failed to open" Idiots.Mad



Well, more lately they've learned to weasel-word it by just saying "parachute (or equipment) failed", often leaving out the phrase "to open". You know, much like if you don't step on your car's brakes in time to avoid hitting the tree, they'd report that "your brakes failed to save you from the collision." Maybe technically partly true on some sort of level, and thus facially defensible if later challenged, but utterly misleading as to genuine causation.

Again, we're talking about reporters who usually have almost zero of the specialized knowledge needed to properly understand skydiving and its equipment, under intense pressure to get a report in by deadline, often working on many other stories, too. So having a designated DZ spokesman as Twardo suggests, that might reduce the potential for inaccurate reporting by lay reporters.

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I applaud you starting this.

A long time ago, I learned a hard lesson. The press is not about principle...it's about advertising dollars and what they can charge for advertising based upon the size of their audience or the size of the readership.

It's all about how they can spin the story, manipulate the details to their advantage, make it sound like they are the ones who are the experts and voila, they can charge the big bucks for advertising.

Sadly, most of them are a bunch of ignorant Whuffos when it comes to skydiving.

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Boomerdog

The press is not about principle...it's about advertising dollars and what they can charge for advertising based upon the size of their audience or the size of the readership.

Not too many years ago, a former jump pilot who turned anti-DZ would occasionally fly his private plane under our jump run at about 1500 AGL. He at least once videoed all the canopies opening above him. He then took the video to a local news station with the startling story of how the skydivers were a hazard to all aviation. They ate it up and advertised the upcoming story.

Our DZ got in touch with the news program to tell them the truth about it all. They couldn't have cared less. A sensational story of dangerous, reckless skydivers sells much better than a disgruntled man trying to cause trouble for others. :|

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JohnMitchell

*** The press is not about principle...it's about advertising dollars and what they can charge for advertising based upon the size of their audience or the size of the readership.

Not too many years ago, a former jump pilot who turned anti-DZ would occasionally fly his private plane under our jump run at about 1500 AGL. He at least once videoed all the canopies opening above him. He then took the video to a local news station with the startling story of how the skydivers were a hazard to all aviation. They ate it up and advertised the upcoming story.

Our DZ got in touch with the news program to tell them the truth about it all. They couldn't have cared less. A sensational story of dangerous, reckless skydivers sells much better than a disgruntled man trying to cause trouble for others. :|

I realize it's too late now in that case, but local news stations are competitive with each other. They might not openly call each other goat-rapists like Fox & MSNBC do, but they sometime enjoy a chance to stick it to each other. Next time that happens, contact one of the station's competitors, tell them what tools Station KXYZ have been, and give them a chance to do a nice informative (read: softball) piece about local skydiving and accuracy of reporting. Might work.

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normiss

Worst reporting of an incident yet

We MUST put forth an effort for public understanding when an incident occurs.

Three parachutes?
WTF is a steering parachute???

Dammit people. No wonder most wuffos think we're just crazy.



You just beat me to the post. My god, is that awful or what?

But it's instructive to us in (at least) one way: it points out the value of a DZ spokesman promptly speaking to reporters and giving them at least "something" sooner rather than later. Here, you can see the DZ manager did speak to the reporter, but only to say they didn't know anything yet. Well, that was helpful: it left the reporter to get his info from the cop who didn't know what he was talking about, and a whuffo eyewitness whose "opinion" about parachute equipment was dutifully quoted (without rebuttal). Oh, and apparently both this fatality and a prior fatality at that DZ were because.. wait for it... the chutes failed to open.

This is a poster-child example of what happens when the DZ doesn't take immediate and proactive control over the message after an accident. We can all bitch till the cows come home about reporters' and other laypersons' lack of diligence, but if the DZOs are careless enough to leave the barn door wide open, well, that horse is gonna bolt.

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Three parachutes?
WTF is a steering parachute???



_Technically_, this is correct.
1-Pilot chut
2-Main
3-Reserve

It sounds like they were given a competent explanation, but they didn't properly comprehend their notes?

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Andy9o8

***Worst reporting of an incident yet

We MUST put forth an effort for public understanding when an incident occurs.

Three parachutes?
WTF is a steering parachute???

Dammit people. No wonder most wuffos think we're just crazy.



You just beat me to the post. My god, is that awful or what?

But it's instructive to us in (at least) one way: it points out the value of a DZ spokesman promptly speaking to reporters and giving them at least "something" sooner rather than later. Here, you can see the DZ manager did speak to the reporter, but only to say they didn't know anything yet. Well, that was helpful: it left the reporter to get his info from the cop who didn't know what he was talking about, and a whuffo eyewitness whose "opinion" about parachute equipment was dutifully quoted (without rebuttal). Oh, and apparently both this fatality and a prior fatality at that DZ were because.. wait for it... the chutes failed to open.

This is a poster-child example of what happens when the DZ doesn't take immediate and proactive control over the message after an accident. We can all bitch till the cows come home about reporters' and other laypersons' lack of diligence, but if the DZOs are careless enough to leave the barn door wide open, well, that horse is gonna bolt.

Andy, we don't know that the DZO didn't give a factual statement. The problem is often that when the press gets a vague "we are still investigating the incident", they turn that into "the DZO didn't know anything" and go look for another source. That may very well have happened here.

If we can't trust the accuracy of the reporters story - and that was clearly demonstrated here - then we also can't trust that the DZO failed to give a statement that was as factual as possible for the moment.

I work in the media and see it every day. When a statement is given - especially in incidents that can be sensationalized - reporters continue to hammer until they get something that satisfies their thirst for a good story. That often means taking pieces from a variety of sources and putting them together in a way that is logical in their ignorant minds.

On one side, we of course want to get ahead of any steering of the story down the wrong road, but we must also be sure to give out only factual and substantiated information. Speculating or opining for the purpose of having something to give the media is never a good idea, and of course immediately following a fatality there really is very little factual, verified information to give. Better to just say "the incident is under investigation by the appropriate authorities and we will release more information when it becomes available".

Side note: I personally have no problem with the uneducated "chutes didn't open" story. I know it's seldom accurate and pisses off skydivers but it puts the story to bed in many cases and that's what we really need.
Chuck Akers
D-10855
Houston, TX

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DSE

Quote

Three parachutes?
WTF is a steering parachute???



_Technically_, this is correct.
1-Pilot chut
2-Main
3-Reserve
4-Reserve pilot chute.

It sounds like they were given a competent explanation, but they didn't properly comprehend their notes?


FIFY.:P
"I may be a dirty pirate hooker...but I'm not about to go stand on the corner." iluvtofly
DPH -7, TDS 578, Muff 5153, SCR 14890
I'm an asshole, and I approve this message

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