Ignorance or Willful Stupidity?

Ignorance or Willful Stupidity?

January 4, 2011

We have all seen those TV news reports about a robbery or other crime involving a motor vehicle.  The TV news reporter will go to great lengths to describe a vehicle that has long-since fled the scene, detailing the make, model, color, year of manufacture, and any distinguishing marks.

And yet, when confronted by a construction or demolition project in progress where the vehicles and machines are still in plain sight, those same reporters are consistently struck dumb or ignorant and seem to opt for the first words that come into their usually-autocued heads.

High-reach excavators are immediately tagged wrecking balls (hey buddy; the clue’s in the name).  Regular excavators are often cranes (sorry, not even close).  And any demolition project – even those that use explosives – seem to require bulldozers to be called in.  

Here in the UK, it’s even worse.  Thanks to the success of this country’s last great construction equipment manufacturer, virtually any machine that has the ability to dig a hole is referred to as a JCB.  Indeed, it is not unusual for a British TV news reporter to actually stand beside a backhoe loader emblazoned with a Caterpillar logo and refer to the machine as a JCB for the duration of the report.

Does all of this matter?  Well, even setting aside my own personal feelings about the declining standards of journalism, yes it does, particularly when an item of equipment has been stolen.  

If a TV or newspaper reporter says that a silver 2007 Ford Mustang with Florida plates has been stolen, we all know exactly what vehicle to be on the lookout for.  If, however, someone says a yellow JCB crane has been stolen, we haven’t a clue.  (For the uninitiated, MOST construction equipment is yellow and JCB doesn’t make cranes!)

Now of course this is primarily a matter of familiarity.  Many journalists drive cars and are, therefore, surrounded by cars on a regular basis; they see construction equipment far less frequently. 

But in the age of instant online information, is it really that much to ask for them to accurately identify equipment?  OK, maybe year of manufacture and serial number is asking a bit too much.  When there’s a giant Cat logo down one side, is it really too much to ask for them to at least get the equipment make and type right?