I just read this blog article, “Top Ten Things News Gets Wrong About Crash Reports”, which enumerates the mistakes made by journalists who report about bike crashes. In the article, the writer pointed out the erroneous way some journalists present their stories about bike accidents. The article was written in response to series of reports written in the Oregonian, in March 2006.
Here is the list of ten mistakes committed by reporters who write news using wrong information and misimpressions about biking:
1. Failure to include speeds in the report. – Journalists fail to mention if a car or bike is speeding in the report, relative to the crash.
2. Failure to mention distracted or sleepy driving. – Drowsiness is one of the causes of bike crashes but reporters fail to mention cell phone use, drunk driving, and other deadly causes of accidents.
3. Failure to mention bike lane violation – Journalist must know that cyclists are allowed by law to use outside lane for various reasons (turning to avoid dirt pile or holes, etc.)
4. Mentioning that the cyclist was not in a bike lane when there was no bike lane on the road.
5. Noting that the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk, when she was, in fact, in an unmarked crosswalk
6. Calling “crashes” accidents, instead of crashes.
7. Repeating driver claims that “the driver did not see the cyclist/pedestrian” or that the cyclist or pedestrian “darted out”.
8. Noting the pedestrian was over the legal limit for alcohol use.
9. Talking about people’s choices of clothes - Reports focus more on the clothes worn by cyclists in accidents but fail to report on safety markings that should be placed on vehicles.
10. Mentioning information about helmet use, unnecessarily
Therefore, in writing news reports, journalists must be careful with facts and present their stories truthfully.