Sunday, August 4

News Makes Wrong Connection In Firefighter Deaths

jacksonville beach fire truck
The local news reported that a study was released that looked at firefighter deaths. The purpose of the study was to find out what caused those deaths in order to see what can be done in order to protect firefighters. The news then added an angle to the story, talking about how our local firefighters are getting equipment to clean themselves off after calls in order to prevent cancer. However, the two stories are unrelated, even if they should be connected.

The study that was done (I assume the NFPA one) only documented deaths while on duty, and the scope of the study (right or wrong) did not account for cancer or other problems resulting from years of service. The study found that about half of the deaths occurred as a result of cardiac arrest. Other causes included being on the scene of non-fire emergencies, during training, and traveling to or from alarms. The study also found that the median age of firefighter deaths was over 50 years old. Also, only 1/3 of the deaths were career firefighters.

Conversely, the problems with cancer-causing chemicals is probably more of an issue for career firefighters. And the NFPA IS studying this problem, too, but it's a completely different study, and one with a different purpose.

The problem is that the local news channel didn't have a stock story about heart attacks or the dangers of firefighter training, so we ended up with a story that was linked because it also has to do with dangers related to firefighting. Probably nothing wrong with the technique if framed properly, but the news channel implied that the cleaning off after a call was related specifically to the study's findings.

Sure, this is a small complaint about local news, but let's look at the same kind of connected reporting when it comes to crime. Every time a shooting occurs, the local news channel likes to say how close the shooting was to a school. If the shooting was not at the school or during school hours, then it's a shooting in a neighborhood. So what's the purpose of adding a school into the reporting? I assume the idea is that the audience is supposed to make a connection that the school itself is in danger or is dangerous. Or that kids and parents should be scared. I don't know for sure, but if the school was not the target or otherwise part of the shooting, then it's irrelevant.  I've also noticed that victims are no longer men or women if they have kids--they are mothers or fathers. Not inaccurate reporting, but certainly done for effect.

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