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Small minded scribes are in need of a refresher course

One news story I happened to peruse last month was from the Owen Sound Sun Times. The piece read in the usual way, trumpeting the fact 31 out of 60 rigs inspected during an Ontario Ministry of Transpo...



One news story I happened to peruse last month was from the Owen Sound Sun Times. The piece read in the usual way, trumpeting the fact 31 out of 60 rigs inspected during an Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) blitz had to be yanked off the road.

I followed the hodge-podge of journalistic effort down the page and eventually discovered the two-day blitz resulted in 41 warnings and 30 charges. It also involved a combined effort on the part the Collingwood and Huronia West detachments of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Barrie and Owen Sound detachments of the MTO and an inspector from the fuel and tobacco division of the Ministry of Finance.

During my absence from the Truck News team, it seemed as though every month I would hear of at least one inspection blitz that nabbed a few dozen truckers.

While I’m always glad to see the truly unsafe operators fined or (in some extreme cases) even pulled off the road, I was always horrified when these few bad operators were used to suggest that all trucks are unsafe.

The real problem isn’t rolling-wrecks; it’s the way many members of Canada’s grassroots media report incomplete statistics and half-truths regarding the trucking industry.

Just as in the afore mentioned example, the number of shady truckers caught in these mini-blitzes usually represent a large percentage of the number of rigs inspected. By stark contrast, these violaters really do represent only a small minority of the industry at large.

But when Johnny and Jenny Canuck read that almost half the trucks they encounter on the highway are nothing but junk heaps, they incorrectly assume they have all of the facts they need to make a decision about this industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Almost all inspection blitzes are targeted to focus attention on the worst offenders. Only rigs suspected of being unfit are even stopped.

Now I’ve worked for several newspapers over my years in the publishing game, but I can’t get over how lazy our nation’s reporters have become.

Would it be too much trouble for you to hammer-out one extra sentence along the lines of, “Officials estimate that an additional 1,400 trucks were allowed to pass through the blitz without being inspected due to their excellent state of repair.”

Would it be a real inconvenience for all of you Jimmy Olsen Jr.s to ask a question or two when you’re covering one of these crack-downs?

“So does this result mean that 50 per cent of all trucks are dangerous?” The only dumb question is the one that goes unasked.

How about using a little intuition and ponder the fact that only 60 trucks were inspected in the first place. Do you think there might be some relevant information you’ll want to track down before you finish your story Peter Parker?

Given that small-town reporters (of which I used to be one) have so much in common with Canada’s truckers (both groups often work 12 -hour days when they could easily make more money on the dole), you’d think you could understand the folks behind the wheel at least a little. Even if you are devoid of empathy, it is imperative you offer a balanced view: that’s journalism 101.

You get paid to report the news. Tell the public the whole story and let them form their own opinions. n


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