Friday, July 20, 2012

Chicago storm incident - misreported?

I'm lifting from my own most recent status update on Facebook, so if you're FB friends with me & this looks familiar, that's why.

I'm taking a break from my Finnish fugue for this because it seems to be a rather extreme case of what happens when reporters who maybe don't know anything about boating report on a boating incident without really understanding what happened - there's more information available and I think it's worth sharing.

Don't know if anybody else was curious about what the heck happened in that storm in Chicago, where supposedly "dozens" of kayakers had to be rescued by emergency services, but according to reporting that I found through a fellow blogger, although it was a dramatic weather event, it sounds like a lot of the drama got added in in the local news reporting of the event. The Chicago Area Sea Kayak Association has been putting up some interesting posts with the guides' version - click here to read their first post in the series.

Particulary interesting/irritating is the fact that the media version of the story led to the Wall Street Journal leading off an article with "The storm that dumped dozens of kayakers into the Chicago River this week highlights the risks posed as cities increasingly turn their rivers into urban playgrounds..." - click here to read that.

There are safety concerns, absolutely, no properly-educated paddler would deny that -- but does the Chicago story highlight those, or does the Chicago story highlight the way that sometimes papers rush to publish a dramatic story without really checking their facts?

Hard to say.

CASKA reporting found via Dave O's The Lake Is The Boss - thanks Dave!

WSJ found through Capt. Bill Brucato's NY Tugmaster's Blog - ironically, I'd gone over there to ask him if he'd seen that new Safe Harbor site that local paddler Ray Fusco had worked with the Coast Guard, the DOT, and a whole range of local professional mariners and recreational boaters to produce.


Tillerman said...

A similar thing happened with a junior sailing class near here recently. A squall blew up and a few boats capsized. The instructors running the group were on the scene in motor boats and did the right thing, first rescuing sailors in the water and getting them safely to land.

A few boats (Optimist dinghies) were still capsized when the local fire department arrived on the scene but at that time all of the kids were on land. The firemen helped to tow the boats back to shore.

The press accounts made it sound as if it were some major unprecedented nautical disaster, that the staff running the sailing lessons had been incompetent, and that the fire department had carried out an heroic rescue and saved multiple kids from drowning. None of which was remotely true of course.

I know that when I worked as a sailing instructor, capsizes sometimes happened. (We even made the kids do them deliberately sometimes for practice.) The kids always did capsize recoveries (with or without help from instructors) and we always got everyone safely back to shore without outside help.

I think some people in the press don't understand that capsizes are a normal part of dinghy sailing. They happen all the time, sometimes to very experienced sailors. They are no big deal.

bonnie said...

Yes, same thing exactly.

I had actually not linked to or even said anything about the original articles back when they came out because I read them and they left me feeling like something was wrong about the story, it was very confusing.

That's actually almost always my first reaction to a newspaper report of a boating incident - I always end up feeling like the information that would actually allow an informed boater understand the how and the why of it just isn't there. Frustrating.