Media mistakes: watch out for flying artillery

Media mistakes: watch out for flying artillery

This is what drives me nuts about reporters reporting on specialized topics with their own terminology and language: rarely do they get it right, which just shows a sloppiness. For example, this Associated Press story headlined “Misfired artillery crashes into girl’s bed.” It goes downhill from there.

A piece of artillery that was apparently misfired by the military crashed through the roof of a New Jersey home miles away Friday and injured a young girl’s cat, which had to be euthanized, officials said.

Picatinny officials told The Star-Ledger of Newark they were investigating. The base had been conducting tests Friday, and it wasn’t immediately clear what type of artillery hit the home.

Here’s the problem. It wasn’t artillery that hit the home, unless you mean that the military fired the actual gun through the air, having it land on home. The word “artillery” does not refer to the ammunition. In fact, the reporter could have used “ammunition,” “round,” or several other types, one of which was undoubtedly used by the spokesman for the base.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Geez, Dom, lay off the caffeine for a while.” And you’d be right because I’ve had too much soda and coffee today, but it still doesn’t invalidate my point which is that reporters so easily drop the ball on stories, whether it’s the military or the Catholic Church. Yet the reading and viewing public so often trust that because it’s in print or on TV, it must be true. We must maintain a healthy skepticism of the media because they are not infallible.

(N.B. I often think everyone should be the subject of an interview or at least be present at an event later reported in the press so they can witness firsthand that reality and reporting are not always the same thing.)


1 comment
  • I have to admit, I had to sift quite awhile before I could figure out what actually happened, being a part of the artillery community myself.  My first thought was, “Why on Earth are they firing shells at a residential neighborhood, and how was that one fragment the only one that did any damage?”

    Turns out that it was never even fired…probably the M107 involved was part of a fragmentation test or something.  If they had been at all clear it wouldn’t have taken me 15 minutes to work out what actually happened.