I’m pissed off.
Halifax…we’re BETTER than this.
After the horrific events that took place in our nation’s capital on October 22nd, tensions across the country were at an all-time high. We lost a good person and a reservist who was simply doing his duty of guarding the tomb of the Unknown Soldier…and there’s no need for that. No justification. Thankfully, the shooter was gunned down inside of the Parliament Building. I’m glad he’s dead and the Canadian Soldier At Arms, Kevin Vickers, is a damn hero for pulling the trigger before more innocent victims died.
Yesterday morning at 8:36am, a report was phoned into Halifax Regional Police. The report was that somebody believed they saw a man walking with what appeared to be a rifle wrapped in black cloth. Police swarmed the area immediately and then social media took over.
What bothered me wasn’t so much the immediate fear and panic that this report caused, it was the fear mongering that local media proceeded to push on the people of Halifax through unconfirmed reports and hearsay.
I’m sorry, but a single, unconfirmed report of someone possibly carrying a rifle underneath a black cloth is not the same as “reports of a gunman”. This type of erroneous reporting only goes to mislead the public into thinking that there was absolutely a gunman in Downtown Halifax because it’s now substantiated with the misnomer of having more than one reported sighting. This type of sensationalistic reporting is what I expect from TMZ and CNN and the like…I don’t expect it from my local media.
The police department attempted to clarify the situation:
It got so bad at one point that local social media folk joined the police department to make sure people knew that shots were NOT fired and there had been NO ATTEMPTED SHOOTING…as people across the country began to re-tell stories around the social media campfire:
As the online community was beginning to go a little bit out of control, this is what the police department officially had to say about the situation at 9:56am:
“At 8:36 a.m., several patrol units, including members of the Emergency Response Team, responded to a report of a man walking in the area of Duke and Brunswick Streets in Halifax carrying what is believed to be a rifle. He was reported to be wearing black cargo pants and an ear piece and was concealing what is reported to be a rifle wrapped in black cloth. We are currently attempting to confirm the single report as well as locate the man. There has been no report of shots being fired or any threats.”
Scary situation? Absolutely! I would be freaking out a bit if I were in the downtown area. As it was, I was outside the downtown core by a couple of kilometers and receiving my information via Twitter and Facebook. Thankfully, I don’t rely on one or two sources of information (such as the goddamn local newspaper!!) or else I would have been freaking out that my city was under attack by a crazy gunman.
Was it stated specifically by the Chronicle Herald, JackFM, and News 94.5? No. Was it inferred by their reckless reporting of multiple reports of a gunman downtown? Absolutely! And even after the police released their clarification of the situation, the Chronicle Herald couldn’t help but continue their sensationalistic ways…
This type of frivolous reporting has got to stop. Everybody is on edge already. We all know that this can happen in our back yard; just look at what happened to my former home of Moncton, New Brunswick just a few months ago.
As a member of the media, you are supposed to INFORM the public. The information needs to be accurate. What you aren’t supposed to do is treat providing news as a race to the finish line on the last lap of the Indy 500. By doing that, you report inaccuracies and cause undue panic and fear amongst your readers. I don’t want to know what COULD be going on, I want to know what’s going on. If you don’t know, DON’T REPORT IT.
CBC television did an incredible job covering the events as they unfolded in Ottawa on Wednesday. Local reporting icon Peter Mansbridge was insightful and stressed numerous times “this is what we know for certain at the moment”. There was no jumping the gun or throwing around wild stories. He didn’t try to sensationalize the situation because, let’s face it, it was scary enough the way it was.
After a situation like what happened yesterday, I think our local news sources need to re-evaluate how they report the news to the public. In a world where typing tweets into a cellphone can result in embarrassing typos, it’s even MORE important to ensure that what you’re sending out to the world is accurate and can be backed-up by evidence.
Will they learn? Probably not…though it didn’t take too long for the Chronicle Herald to wise-up and realize that they were part of the problem yesterday morning:
Let’s just forget the police report saying that there is yet no direct correlation between the two incidents. To the media, this is a “case closed” situation and they were justified in their reporting.
I, for one, and sick of it.
UPDATE – It turns out that the two cases were NOT related.