Air France: Misguided Media Attention

Before I even get started on this topic I want to make sure you all know that I am sorry for offending anyone that has lost someone in either a plane crash or a car accident. This post is not to offend you or your loved ones, but only to provide my opinion on how I feel our media and our society blow things out of proportion. I do not want you to agree with me, but if you feel obligated to leave a comment on this post, do so in an educated and professional manner.

I absolutely love flying. I enjoy the take off. I enjoy the landing. I enjoy the fact that our species was smart enough to produce a machine that can take me from New York City to L.A. in a matter of hours. That I can get on a plane, fly all the way around the world, and still have the convenience of a flushing toilet, wireless internet, power outlets, air conditioning, and a DVD while doing so. The advances in air travel have some full circle and since the Wright brothers first invented this concept we have nearly perfected it.

I enjoy flying for a few reasons. One, there are places that I have traveled that I would never be able to go unless it was for an airplane. For instance, last summer, I spent some extended time in Europe teaching graphic design. In a matter of hours I went from Chicago, Illinois to Europe. My entire life switched time zones, personalities, and weather. All while 30,000 feet above the air. If you were to take that same jounrey, say, in a car, or a boat, it would take you days, even weeks, to make that trip. And for a few hundred dollars (the college I was attending at the time actually paid for the travel) I was able to make it safely and securely.

But how safe are planes? Do we run the risk of a flat tire every once and a while? Or how about inclement weather? What about snakes? (That might be one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life.) Or do we just put our inhibitions to the wind and hop aboard hoping to make it to the next destination while leaving our future and lives in that pilots hands? 99.9% of the time, the latter. But what about the folks that are in the wrong place at the wrong time? For instance, those planes that supposedly crashed into the World Trade Center. Or the ones that go missing in the Bermuda Triangle all the time. Or the planes that just simply have mechanical malfunctions and crash due to the nature of the failure.

And the thing is, you hear about those crashes all the time. Every time there is a crash landing you hear about it on the news, in the papers, and on the Internet. It is all over the headlines for a few days but then is swept under the carpet to move on to something else that will peg our interest for a while. But how many people a year actually die in plane crashes?

The number of deaths ranges from year to year, but take a look at these staggering results. Four hundred and fifty people died in 12 fatal U.S air-transport accidents from 1996 to 2000. Meanwhile, 209,117 people, including 30,189 pedestrians and bicyclists, died in 186,474 fatal traffic crashes. In 2000 alone, 37,409 crashes killed 41,821 people. (These numbers are exact from those years. Take those to be an average of years past and present going forward. And with the advances in technology, the number of deaths drops through time.)

That is absolute proof that traveling by air is safer. You do not have to worry about drunk drivers when you are flying. You do not have to worry about someone running a stop light or someone speeding in a residential neighborhood. The worst thing you have to worry about is weather, which in most flights you will be flying over. Plain and simple, you are at a much greater risk by driving to the grocery store than you are by flying to Las Vegas.

But the point of this post is not to talk about the safety of flights or the numbers associated with them. The point of this post is to talk about how our media and our modern day society translate plane crashes. I am going to use the Air France crash as my starting point. While at the time I am writing this post (or better yet typing this post) there was no official word of what has happened to this air craft, but it has been stated by the CEO of Air France that it is “likely the plane has crashed.” So we will assume that this plane did in fact crash, and unless we are filming a reality TV show as a spin off of the hit TV series Lost, the passengers have perished.

So where does the media come into play? Right here. It is all I can hear about. It is on every news station as breaking news. It is on every major news website as breaking news. And it is on Twitter releasing over 100 posts a minute. This is hot news (for the time being) and all you will hear about the more we learn about this crash. But why in the world are we spending so much time talking about this plane crash? Yeah, there have been quite a few plane crashes already this year, all stemming from different air lines, but this is no different than any other plane crash that we have seen in our history. What makes me mad, flaming mad to be exact, is that we are spending all this time talking about this plane crash when there are people dying every three minutes on our highways. There are people out for a nightly jog getting hit by inattentive drivers. There are people driving too fast, running stop signs, and talking on their cell phones having no clue they will not wake up tomorrow. But where are their news stories? Where are the headlines about insert name here and his deadly three car pile up? Where are the headlines of the drunk driving accident that will happen tonight when someone that had a bad day decided to have one too many?

Sure, these stories will be featured in the local newspapers, and they will run obituaries on them, but that is it. CNN will not touch them. MSNBC will not think twice about those stories. Digg will not feature an article on it’s home page about them. But the question is why? If we are going to take our time to discuss something that for lack of better terms is a rare occurrence, then why not discuss the tragedies that happen each and every day? The proof is in the numbers.

It is mind blowing to me how we spend all our time worrying and being upset for the victims of these plane crashes when we need to be more focused on things here at home. When we need to worry about our own lives and focus on the day to day tasks that keep you and your family safe. Don’t get me wrong, it is something that I feel deserves to be shared, but no where near in the way it is being shoved in our faces by the media. Unless you had someone that you knew or a family member on that flight, and someone reading this might since there were over 200 people on that plane, you are not effected by this story. Will it effect your decision to fly the next time you log on to buy a plane ticket? Will it change your mind about that vacation to Florida and force you to drive to King’s Island? (See where I am going here? You make a decision not to fly based on the fact that a plane crashed and choose to drive, when you are ten times more likely to die on the road than in the air.)

Why does our media take things so far out of proportion? What is the draw that these stories have that keep readers coming back? What does it say about the intelligence of our society that we feed on stories of death, dismemberment, and carnage when there are stories of 4-H fairs, rainbows, and bunnies
in every small town? When will this society wake up and see the power behind media and how whatever media tells you to believe you will.

This is part of the reason that I am glad I do not have cable any longer. I am not bombarded with news flashes every ten minutes of the next big no big deal. All we hear about are the bad things in our world. The war, high gas prices, our government, bankruptcy, and the list goes on and on. The only way to fix this is to pay attention to where and what we are choosing to listen to.

I am going on three vacations this year and I will be flying on every single one of them. This, nor will any future story, deter me from flying in an air craft. And I highly suggest that you change your habits in how you are controlled by the media in our society.