Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hey mainstream media … a guy in a pickup is not a truck driver … *sigh*

From TV host Jay Leno to  media criticism organizations, a number of watchers are constantly dogging the daily news for fairness, accuracy, outright blunders and words that are used incorrectly. I’m one of those watchers, but I tend to specialize in mistakes that leap into the mainstream regarding truck drivers and the trucking industry.

This morning I happened upon a story that caught my attention. I wasn’t really looking for a problem, but the headline in a Maine newspaper lured me beyond these words: “Wilton police seek truck driver who offered young girl a ride.”

The Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME, covers Central and Western Maine news. Reporter Ann Bryant of the Sun Journal wrote that last week in Wilton, ME, a truck driver offered an 11-year-old girl a ride when she got off the bus. No crime was committed but they want to speak to the operator of the truck, said the police chief.

The police were called when the girl was approached by a man in a red truck. The driver asked her if she wanted a ride; she said no and kept walking. The truck was reported to have turned around and come back toward her.

OK, here’s a description of the truck, according to the newspaper article – that was posted online and therefore went all over the world.

“The truck is described as a red full-sized truck with a silver toolbox in the back. A gold and white logo is on the side of the truck.” The article notes that “there was lumber in the back that extended beyond the tailgate.”

You can guess where I am going with this. It’s a suspicious situation and obviously the police in this town have a predator they need to check out. I confirmed with Wilton Police Chief Heidi M. Wilcox, who clarified it was a pickup.

So when will mainstream reporters and headline editors punch into the fact that truck driving is a profession and this guy was in no way a truck driver? This improper use of these words has become a pet peeve of mine. And most of the time, a follow-up call or email to the paper is appreciated. Occasionally, the offending news outlet will insist it’s a “question of semantics.”

So, if that red pickup truck had been a VW microbus, would the headline read “Police seek bus driver …?”

They are not looking for a truck driver; they are looking for a possible pervert in a pickup.

Maybe I’m being picky, but the headline insults a whole working community of professionals. The police chief apologized straight away if the description was misleading, but the newspaper reporter was another story.

I called her up at the Sun Journal. Ann Bryant defended the headline, saying the guy WAS a truck driver. We discussed this briefly, but she was dismissive and insisted it was just “wording.” Yes, it is wording and words need to be used correctly when you are reporting news.

The paper no doubt has plenty of trucker readers, not to mention friends and family members of truck drivers.

Get it right, Sun Journal.