Am I a dick?

I’m honestly not sure if my natural tendency towards cynicism is clouding my view on this, but is anyone else a little disappointed in the ferry accident coverage?

I understand that breaking news in a remote location is hard to cover, but a few things about the initial wave of online coverage irked me.

  • The first reports I saw said the ferry went down near the Queen Charlotte Islands. It didn’t, I went down near Hartley Bay along the inside passage. For those of us who lived in the area, the difference is pretty astounding. A regrettable mistake made worse by the fact that a 4:30 p.m. update on the Globe’s website repeated the error (though it was corrected by about 4:33 p.m., I know ’cause I wanted to do a screen capture of it for this site).
  • Initial reports clearly stated that everyone was accounted for. Now we know that’s not true.

I don’t know, should the public have a greater expectation for accuracy? The nature of the uber-competitive media marketplace means that speed often trumps said accuracy but should the public just accept that?

I’m really not sure how I feel at this point, so please, use the handy comment function on the new site and share your thoughts. The comments have to be moderated if you’ve never commented here before so it may take a moment to appear.


  1. As someone who covered this from afar I may be biased here. But on the point about the passengers being accounted for the fault on that doesn’t fall on the media. It falls on B.C. Ferries and, to a MUCH lesser extent the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria. It wasn’t journalists standing on shore with a passenger list counting the passengers coming off the Hartley Bay fishing boats and the coast guard icebreaker.

    Now the point about the Queen Charlotte Islands is a good one. It was likely first a mistake made by the first reporter writing to an insane deadline with few sources available (keep in mind the time this accident happened in the middle of the night), so sure, maybe something like that can happen on the first write-through but you’re right, it should have been cleared long before the G&M’s story at 4:30 p.m.

  2. Yea but doesn’t your paper make shit up?

    Ouch, that was uncalled for.

    Very good points CM, journalists can reasonably expect their sources to tell them the truth. Like when a cop tells you someone was arrested, you assume it’s true.

    How’s life in the big leagues anyway?

  3. I have to agree with CM, but at the same time we are running into a problem in modern journalism.

    Sources lie.

    I like to think more than they used to.

    Now, obviously in this case it wasn’t a lie but misinformation and poor disaster management. I have had plenty of sources bold-faced lie to me and while some times I have caught their lies and called them on their bullshit, sometimes I have not.

    I know this post started talking about sources that fed journalists bad information accidentally, but if we have established that in this day and age sources are going to lie to journalists because for whatever reason they deem it neccesary. How do journalists operate? Do they print the lie on Monday and correct it on Wednesday or do you establish a list of sources whose comments always have to be triple fact-checked. If our business is based on deadlines and speed are we forced to take sources at their word?

  4. I agree that Queen Charlotte Islands mistake was a big one to make, and the Globe error coming at 4:30 p.m. makes it worse. I don’t think it is insensitive or overly-cynical to be disappointed in that aspect of the media coverage.

    The media cannot be faulted in the same way for reporting that the passengers were all accounted for, they just should have done a better job attributing that statement to B.C. Ferries. Journalists aren’t the authoritative source to tell Canada that everyone is fine; they should just keep reporting the most up-to-date comments and releases from officials who know (or should).

    It is hard to know what to do with Andy’s scenario though, attribution can lessen the blow but in the end you can’t be prepared for every lying source. No easy answers for Andy except something I read in a report by some news hack, be a dick with police. It served me well on my first court story when an Ottawa police media relations something rather tried to convince me that the criminal code measured alcohol in ounces, I had to argue with her that I wanted to be put in contact with an authoritative source.

    On the other hand, if for some reason the toxicologist then lied to me I would have been screwed.

  5. I think this comes down to the truth over accuracy debate . Is it more important to have the information out there quickly or to be correct?

    The first newscast I watched after the ferry went down was the local CBC news in Calgary. They didn’t say that all passengers were accounted for. They said two were missing, “but they probably left the shore and weren’t counted by authorities.”

    That sounded too close to judgment and not close enough to truth for me…

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