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March 17, 2014

Don’t You Believe It: Choosing Your Aviation News Source

When I was a very junior Phil Derner Jr., my father taught me to question things. It wasn’t a blanket lesson to never trust anyone or to be suspicious of everyone, but just to think critically for myself and make my own analysis. He’d often use the phrases, “Don’t you believe it,” or, sarcastically, “That’s what they want you to believe.” But even when he said it jokingly, I still put thought into whatever the subject matter was and re-examined it.

These days, we see that independent journalism is growing, and fast. This is of course thanks to the internet, where everyone has a voice, and where the few media giants are simply no longer able to truly monopolize and dominate the flow of information. We as members of society have options now. We can take things with a grain of salt and look to other sources for what it is we want to know, and determine for ourselves who we want to believe.

For me, I would much rather get my news from an expert or specialty website more than even the most talented mainstream reporters because those reporters may never have covered a certain topic (like aviation) before. They are learning the industry on the fly in a reactive environment, and therefore are likely to misreport. This is why I don’t groan as loudly when I see the mainstream media mess up aviation coverage; they were thrust into the aviation industry because of a recent event and are suddenly expected to deliver a full research paper within minutes. For that reason, I really can’t blame them when errors are made. In fact, I feel badly for mainstream reporters that need to report on aviation.

This is why NYCAviation has done well with our written content, if we may so say ourselves. Along with some of our colleague websites, such as AirlineReporter.com, and a ton of other specialty sites that exist in pretty much every industry nowadays, we offer a source for accurate in-the-know information on the topics we cover. We know our stuff, simple as that.

Who put this fool on the air??

Who put this dude on the air??

Another problem for the mainstream media is that the immediacy of the internet also means that news is a race. There is no longer a deadline to have copy sent to print for tomorrow’s newspaper or for an 11pm television broadcast, because the first one with the info on the website gets the traffic and the ad revenue. Of course, racing means rushing, rushing means mistakes, and mistakes mean your journalistic integrity is being sacrificed. Though I do still visit the mainstream media websites for news as well as the specialty ones, I will only read them until I find a mistake, at which point I leave the site and won’t return for the rest of the day.

What I find to be most common on the mainstream sites, which I find on a daily basis, are basic spelling and grammatical errors, as well as duplicate paragraphs within one article. The duplicate paragraphs are the most frustrating to me, as they happen as a result of subsequent edits and updates to the article. This shows that there is little or poor screening of posted content, and it completely takes away my ability to trust what I am reading. Simply stated, the editing of online news sites is not of wonderful quality and would never be tolerated in a print magazine or newspaper. The race to post an article supersedes proper editing, and sometimes even fact checking.

I’d be lying if I said we at NYCAviation were never guilty of making mistakes ourselves, as we have certainly been caught with our pants down on errors and mistakes. Our lack of a substantial budget, like what CNN or FoxNews has, is no excuse. We still have a responsibility to those that rely on us for either information or entertainment. They expect quality, and that is what we aim to deliver. We also respond to errors by improving our process and work to prevent it from happening again. In the mainstream, however, rushing and being mistake-prone is now the accepted culture. I’ve seen no improvement in the mistakes that I see daily from them.

This is yet another advantage of specialty news sites. We know the industry and therefore can analyze and disseminate information with confidence, and explanation to boot. Our ability to triple-confirm is also easier. Our ability to sniff out bull and find additional information is exponentially faster, because we know what we are looking for, whereas many other reporters, again, need to learn about this new field as they go in order to report on it somewhat reliably.

Note: This isn’t just meant as us ragging on the mainstream media in general. Some mainstream organizations like Associated Press have it spot-on. They employ people like Scott Mayerowitz to report on aviation topics. He’s a true expert, and serves that purpose wonderfully. Kudos to AP.

That is not to pat ourselves on the back for reporting what we do, because we are not the only ones. A couple weeks ago, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 was hijacked by its First Officer and diverted to Geneva. By the time mainstream news started picking this up, it was already over and had already been talked about in the aviation world for hours. Where did you go to if you wanted to see what was going on as it happened? The Twitter accounts of @AirlineReporter and @ThatJohn.

The mainstream media outlets were the county firefighters showing up after the local volunteer firefighters had already put the fire out. They kicked ass with two feet so well that NYCAviation even opted out of the coverage. If you can’t beat ’em, retweet ’em!

Choose-WiselyNow we see it again with Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Several mainstream media outlets hunt for facts and have been reporting speculation. Some report what they can and then call in some more reliable folks for the nitty gritty portions, which is how it should be done. Some websites (ahem) hold back and would rather report that there is nothing new to report instead of just adding rumor and conjecture. It is sometimes better to remain silent than to add to the loud, confusing mess that is public debate.

So by all means, go and read any site you’d like. But take them all with a grain of salt — even us. Be subjective, ask questions, and choose wisely.



About the Author

Phil Derner Jr.
Phil Derner founded NYCAviation in 2003. A lifetime aviation enthusiast that grew up across the water from La Guardia Airport, Phil has aviation experience as a Loadmaster, Operations Controller and Flight Dispatcher. He owns and operates NYCAviation and performs duties as an aviation expert through writing, consulting, public speaking and media appearances. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.




 
 

 

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  • Stan Astan

    Malaysia flight 370 is precisely the reason I’m here. It so happens I “Googled” you and here I am. I reckoned a more specialized publication might produce a few gems of hot information. I’m not so sure about any over-heated gems in this instance, but I do like the style here.
    I like to think of myself as a modestly sophisticated amateur sleuth. Flight 370 has sent me into a frenzy of information gathering in an attempt to arrive at a theory of my own. I believe I’ve formulated one. Thanks for your help.
    Warm Regards.