December 7, 2011

Just the facts ma'am

Wednesday AM one of the local television stations (FOX, of course) breathlessly reported on an arson fire in a Richardson, TX park playground. As the reporter pointed to houses in the background (by his own estimation 75 yards distant,) that were threatened with fiery destruction by the acts of this callous arsonist. The plastic playground equipment was displayed in the video melted and lying in heaps on the ground as the reporter pointed to the scorched framework.

As with any fire of unknown origin arson must be suspected, certainly, but without investigation there is no way that in the brief period of time between the fire’s discovery and the live report that a cause could have been determined. One must wonder at this strident fear mongering. Arson? How so? How is it that in the space of six or eight hours we could so positively identify the fire source? Why is it that news stations today are so ready to report assumptive conclusion rather than simple fact? The competing ABC station took a more moderate, reasoned tone.

This is not the first such fire reported in similar playgrounds, and there is evidence on file proving conclusively that another such local event was spontaneous combustion. A quick web search would have provided station news editors with links to a similar fire in Arlington, TX in August of 2007. That event, captured by surveillance camera, conclusively demonstrates the fire starting without apparent cause.

This report was widely reported at the time on non-FOX stations and local, non-Murdoch newspapers in far less shrill reports. Subsequent experimentation demonstrated that the cause was likely heat buildup from the natural composition of the wood chips that are spread around the playground equipment to soften falls. It took me less than two minutes to find these links.

All news reporting is getting to be about the same. In this area the local FOX station follows the FOX News model of exaggerating and selectively reporting. In other areas it might be ABC, CBS or NBC. When did it become so fashionable the offend and excite in the name of journalism? And why?



Old NFO said...

Excellent point! And your research points out a little fact checking WOULD be in order!