In my own areas of modest expertise--poker and aviation--I often gag at what passes for reportage in the mainstream press. They frequently get things flat wrong, and even when the facts are correct, it's clear that the reporter still doesn't "get it."And now, in case you wanted to know what I was referring to, the panic-mongers at ABC, WaPo, et al, provide Exhibit A: the recent case of Michelle Obama's Near-Disastrous Brush With Death. This is from an aviation writer who actually knows what he's talking about:
Basically, in terminal airspace, where Michelle Obama's C-40/737 was, the required IFR lateral separation is 3 miles, which wasn't compromised. But in following a heavy jet like the C-17, 5 miles of in-trail spacing is required for wake turbulence and that's where the bust was. As the C-17 rolled out on the runway, this evolved into a runway separation issue for the tower controller so he sent the airplane around. Big deal. It happens.P.S. Never mind that Mobama was cruising around in a jet you paid for to appear on "The View." Ruling class wins again.
This sent me out in search of world's worst reporter on the aviation beat. And believe me, there's no lack of candidates. I award first place to Lisa Stark, of ABC News, who consistently reports aviation stories, no matter how minor, in urgent, 72-point type. Her report on this incident, while not wildly inaccurate, lacks the balancing perspective a lay viewer could grasp if the story weren't so dumbed down. Her gatekeeping of facts proceeds from the notion that this was a dangerous situation when, in fact, is was just less than optimal. Too tight sequences get fixed every day.
Second place goes to The Washington Post's Ashley Halsey III who decided it would be a good idea to say in his lead that the First Lady's airplane "came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet." Allowing as how the copy desk—if the Post still has one of those—may have sexed up the lead, it's just wrong. Completely. It's tabloid-level interpretation.