Monthly Archives: July 2007

Oh for crying out loud, use a dictionary already


Let me start by saying that I am not fanatically devoted to the idea that people, in general, ought to be good (much less perfect) spellers. Nor do I believe that correct grammar is required to lead a wildly successful life.

Am I wrong in expecting that the news media should set the bar a little higher for themselves?

This is something that has long been a source of annoyance for me. It calls into question the very trustworthiness of the news media, especially when it not only quotes, but repeats without question that which they’ve been told. As it relates to the present, the thing that’s attracted my ire is the blind repetition of the term “carabineer” by media outlets in connection with the tragic incident at Lifest 2007. This is not so different than the phrase “bungee ride” that I had previously complained about.

I’m not a climber, and I’m certainly not a reporter, but let’s face it: “carabineer” is an unusual word. Even if it does pass an automated spelling check, one would think that it should at least trigger a quick peek into a favorite dictionary. Online versions are readily available if one is ever caught without a printed copy.

This isn’t the only inaccuracy I’ve seen in reports on the subject. You can lay a fair amount of blame on the Department of Commerce report, which is of course the source of the spelling error above. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s incumbent on reporters to check spelling and grammar just as well as they check the facts.

PS – Google is not a dictionary. I simply adore many things that Google has done, but beware of using standard screwdrivers to turn Torx™ heads.

Lifest tragedy

I’ve just spent the the last 4 days at Lifest. We brought our girls, ages 5 through 10, to see some of their favorite bands, and to have them hear a few others that mom and dad listened to when they were too young to know.

Then, yesterday at about 4:40 p.m. the fun was interrupted by sirens. The first vehicle to arrive was a fire truck. My wife and I compared notes later and we both thought, “hey, carnival food, maybe a deep fryer caught fire”… and then we realized the truck was heading up toward the artist merchandise barn. Shortly after that, an ambulance arrived, and we knew something was terribly wrong. The obvious conclusion was that something had happened with the Air Glory ride near the barn.

I’m very, very upset by this tragedy. My heart grieves for the loss of this young woman; if the rumors are true, she wasn’t much older than my eldest. I can only imagine the pain that her family is suffering now, and I’m sure it’s worse than I can dream.

Here’s what UPI has to say:

A teenage girl was killed in a bungee-jumping accident Saturday at a Christian rock festival in Wisconsin.

United Press International – NewsTrack – Top News – Bungee jumper dies at Christian festival

The press coverage of this is very disturbing in a different way. This article is an example of how the press is propagating what appears to be one writer’s speculation. Air Glory is not a bungee jumping, or bungee-like, ride.

If you read the article, you’ll also be presented with some similarly uninformed “facts.” To clarify: The festival did not shut down for two hours. The festival did not simply resume scheduled events, either immediately or after some period of time.

I was there.

One problem with this reporting is that nobody bothered to understand what Air Glory was before putting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard). This amusement ride is a giant swing operated from a crane. Riders are suspended from the crane with cables, and when released, swing back and forth. They do not bounce, the cables do not stretch perceptibly, and there’s no jumping involved.

Another issue is with the reporting of what happened next. There simply wasn’t much scheduled around that time, so to say that the events shut down for two hours is misleading. Perhaps the reporters are trying to paint the image of event organizers “doing the right thing,” but all this does is give me the impression that they were more concerned about image than about what was going on. Artists were up on stage talking about what had happened, and on at least one stage they were soon singing songs of life and of hope; lest you think there were only “mellow worship songs” as reported you might consider checking out Red. Indeed, every artist and speaker I heard, including some while walking between events and eating dinner, took time during and between each event to express love and support for this girl and her family.

If I know the people who run Lifest – and I am acquainted with a number of them – they are directly and personally involved as much as they can be. They are not impersonal corporate suits. They are not there to make money (they’ve lost money on this festival every year). They love our youth, and it will be an even bigger tragedy if sloppy reporting like this makes anybody think otherwise.

UPDATE: At least one report in a local paper has correctly identified Air Glory as a “freefall swing ride.”