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Life Arts    H4'ed 10/22/13

Strike, tragedy, and lousy journalism

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Mural face SF by Bob Patterson

An interesting mural in San Francisco made for a good feature photo shot.

After the negotiations in Oakland collapsed and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike was resumed, we heard an odd item on KCBS radio.   They informed listeners that they should not be alarmed if they saw BART trains running on the system.   The reporter explained that the trains were being run to keep the system and the equipment in running condition in anticipation of the resumption of service after a settlement.   There was something about that bit of news that caused a small skeptical reaction for us but we didn't pay close attention and ignored any implications that heads-up for the listeners might have.   On Saturday, after we took a one day excursion to San Francisco on the AC Transit Bus System (which is under a 7 day strike delay cooling off pause), we heard a news report that two people had been killed that afternoon by a BART train and immediately our internal alarm system sounded.  

Usually the news coverage of a major strike includes video or still photos of some equipment sitting idle.   We know this from personal experience because in the late Seventies the photo desk at AP in Los Angeles called us at home and asked if we would take a stringer assignment to go down to the Long Beach area and take a photo of some California Highway Patrol cars sitting in the area headquarters parking lot.   A photo of cars parked in a symmetric pattern isn't very dynamic but it does illustrate the concept of "sitting idle."

So why was that BART train running during the strike rather than sitting idle? 

If the public is to believe the KCBS explanation some member of management must have come in on the weekend, just to run the train during a period when one of the local papers ran a headline indicating that negotiations between the workers and management were not being conducted.   The implication was that the public's inconvenience was going to last a long time.

So why was that BART train runnin' down the tracks on a textbook perfect example of a Indian Summer Saturday afternoon? 

Was the Bay area mainstream media missing a big story?   They couldn't have been testing the equipment because a settlement was close.   It seems unlikely that some member of management had come in to take his kid on a joy ride.  

The death of two people is a tragedy but wouldn't there be a much greater amount of news value to it, if (subjunctive mood speculation in lieu of a concrete explanation is covered by free speech rules) those two folks were killed by a scab worker who was being trained to be used as strikebreakers?  

The KCBS Saturday afternoon story completely ignored the question of who was running the train and the possibility that there would be any police charges used against that person.  

At 5 o'clock Pacific Time the CBS network news said that the two people who had died were not union members.   This contradicted something we had heard on the same station moments earlier.   When the all news all the time resumed local coverage, they said the two victims were union members. 

The next morning, the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle used the Saturday accident for the lead story with a banner headline.   The sub-head informed readers that the train was operating on the status of "on maintenance run."   In the 13th paragraph the readers learned that it might have involved a training lesson.  

On Saturday night, it was announced that the National Transportation Safety Board would be the lead agency conducting the investigation.  

By Monday morning, the Bay Area section of the Chronicle was headlining the Matier and Ross column with "Insider:   BART training workers when 2 died."

By Tuesday morning, the strike was over and service had been resumed. 

Over the weekend, the World's Laziest Journalist started to do some fact checking for a news story from Alaska that seems to have gone missing.   Do a Google News search for Governor Parnell and Cook Inlet.   We saw an interesting story via such a search over the weekend.   The story seems to have vanished from the Internet by Tuesday noon Pacific times.   If it isn't every day that a judge speculates that the governor may have broken the law, doesn't that make it a news story for the various National desks in NYC, if they can find it?

We have repeatedly made references to the case of the Los Angeles County assessor in our columns.   We have done Google News searches and found a few scant details via links to some information provided to the public by the Los Angeles Times.   We have not been able to augment those few facts with any other information from any other source. 

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)

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