The surf at Depoe Bay, a dangerous place to play/Craig Medred photo

NEWPORT, Ore. – All across America these days, the day-to-day decay of the mainstream media is on display.

The big problem is not the oft-cited bias, though there is plenty of that given journalists are human. But the bias is something of a distraction.

As is often the case for so many things, the real problem lives in the details. The little things matter. The little things are so often the telltale to the question of “can I believe this?”

About a dozen miles up coast from here, two people died a couple of days ago at a place called Depoe Bay. It was a tragic event. The husband and wife left behind a 10-year-old child rescued by Oregon authorities.

The media took the tragedy and tried to make it even more tragic:

“As a family picnicked near the ocean on Sunday afternoon, a wave rushed out and fatally swept away a 10-year-old girl’s parents,” wrote Josh Magness for the McClatchy News Service. 

Any thinking person who read that story had to wonder “what really happened?”

The lead on the McClatchy story might actually have been worse than the headline from the Daily Mail: “Daughter, 10, watches in horror from the beach as her parents are swept out to sea in Oregon, just two months after the family moved from China to start a new life in the US.”

Some of what the Daily Mail described might actually have taken place, though if the daughter saw the accident she wasn’t on a “beach.”

Beaches versus cliffs

The Oregon coast has beautiful, sand beaches, miles and miles and miles of them. And between those beaches are steep, rocky headlands.

Both the beaches and headlands get pounded by waves that roll uninterrupted across the Pacific Ocean all the way from Asia. The waterfront is dynamic. The surf slams onto the sand and climbs up onto the headlands.

People picnic on the beaches, but they do not picnic close to the surf because it is prone to sending the odd wash of water rolling far above the tideline. And who wants to picnic where you can’t put anything on the ground for fear of it getting soaked?

People picnic above the headlands, too, up on the top away from the steep, rocky faces because it is difficult to picnic on a steep, rocky cliff.

If you’ve spent any time at all on the Oregon coast, your only reaction to the Magness story was that it made little sense.

So what really happened? Here’s the official version from the Oregon State Police:

“…Miaochan Chen (age 49 from Lake Oswego-male) and Wenjun Zhu (age 41 from Lake Oswego-female) were visiting the Oregon coast with their 10-year-old daughter. The group were picnicking off Otter Crest Loop when Chen , Zhu, and their daughter took a trail down to rocks which overlooked the ocean. A wave washed over the rocks and swept Chen and Zhu into the ocean.”

That’s an accurate snapshot of a part of the picture. Chen and Zhu, immigrants from China not long in the U.S., did, by all accounts, leave a picnic to take a hike down to the rocks below a geographic feature with the word “Crest” in its name.

But the official statement from police doesn’t tell the full story.

The U.S. Coast Guard indicated that there might be more with its official report that “Sector North Bend Command… received a request for assistance for two people who had reportedly been swept out to sea by a rogue wave while foraging for mussels.”

Between the police and the Coast Guard reports, it was pretty clear these tragic deaths had little to do with a picnic and everything to do with people wandering onto a potentially dangerous cliff.

And if one dug deep enough – Google and Facebook, despite all their supposed concerns about “fake news” actually make it harder to find “true news” by giving web priority to news crap – there could be found a story by KGW8 reporters Max Barr and Lindsay Nadrich, who actually went to the scene of the accident while a search for Chen and Zhu was underway.

This is what the news media used to do, but there was little of this to be found here Monday. The local online media reprinted the official Coast Guard statement in whole and later printed the official Oregon State Police statement in whole.  And, well, you figure it out.

Actual reporting

So what happened?

“On Sunday afternoon, the couple, their daughter and a third adult had a picnic near the Otter Crest Loop, south of Depoe Bay,” Barr and Nadrich reported from Rocky Creek State Park above the site of the accident. “After, they took a trail down to some rocks overlooking the ocean to go fishing, according to Lt. Cary Boyd of the Oregon State Police.

“After they were done fishing, the couple and the third adult stayed down at the rocks while the daughter took her fishing pole and started to walk back.

“As the couple was taking a picture, a wave washed over the rocks and took the father first, Boyd said.

“‘The other male individual and his wife, Wenjun, had stayed down and were yelling at Miaochan to see if they could get him back up to the rocks when another wave came and took his wife out to the ocean also,’ Boyd said.”

The true story wasn’t about a picnic at all. It was about a fishing couple who ventured too close to dangerous surf to take a picture only to be swept away as has happened so many times before.

It’s simply sad they didn’t know the danger, or knew it and underestimated the risk.

In the wake of the accident, Oregon state officials were once again reminding people to avoid surf-pounded headlands and beaches. Google “swept to sea by wave” and you pull up dozens upon dozens of stories about the danger posed by water in these places:

A 4-year-old boy swept to his death near Kitty Hawk in April, a man in his 40s swept out of Depoe Bay back in January, elderly sisters killed in November while on a “dream vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a woman swept off a Rogue River jetty and killed south of this Oregon city in October of last year, and many more.

The list of tragedies goes on and on. Surf-pounded beaches and headlands are potentially dangerous. They kill people so often that when someone dies it is somewhat predictable.

And who wants to read predictable news?

To make it less predictable, someone like Magness writes: “As a family picnicked near the ocean on Sunday afternoon, a wave rushed out and fatally swept away a 10-year-old girl’s parents.”

Journalists have long dramatized the news, sometimes sensationalized it, to attract readers. But in these days of digital media with almost everyone chasing internet traffic, the dramatization is closing in on absurd.

Many of the people who do this think they are helping save the news. In truth, they’re killing it. They are actually a far greater threat to the news than all of those commentators who twist and spin because we all expect commentators to twist and spin.

But the simple stuff, the so-called “straight news,” well, there was a time when we all expected journalists to at least get that right.  There was a time when we thought the news could be counted on to accurately or at least semi-accurately provide facts, or at least try.

That time is ending. And as it does, Americans understandably trust the news less and less because you really can’t count on journalists to get much of anything right.

All of which is sad, depressing and more than a little scary in a democracy led by a president regularly ranting about “fake news.” Much of Donald Trump’s complaining is simply about news he doesn’t happen to like, but with the reality of so much of the news being done so badly, it is easy for many to believe Trump might be right about the fake part.









29 replies »

  1. I think the Dalai Lama made some good points today . Also I think the Catholic Church has created a dreadful history. Maybe it’s adherents will leave and laws will be enforced on the hurtful heads who hurt the young . I wish the msm would come down harder on the perpetrators rather than sugar coating.

  2. The irony. So, if I get this right, journalists are supposed to get up off of their asses and do some real legwork and find a story instead of just mining the interwebs for bs. Good luck, Craig. You have 4 followers. I’m sure you’ll be fine…

  3. Speaking of fake and poor journalism, what happened to Shannyn Moore? I realized the other day that I had not seen ADN headlines for her rants in a long time.
    Is she still alive? BTW- not complaining about her absense.

    • From the FBI/DNC/Hillary Campaign, to the fake Russian-Steele Dossier it should be obvious journo’s just got to the NYT or Wash. Post for their marching orders. Pravda ring a bell? One of the BIGGEST news stories of our time is willfully being IGNORED by the “media”. Pathetic!! The medias most insidious form is to ignore. There was NO collusion between Trump and the Russians but, tuere was between Hillary/DNC/FBI and tue Russians. But, we have been told by a lying media that it was the other way around. Craig, there is your next story.

      • Yes it would be a good story. Russian s and Chinese . It seems to be spun and mostly ignored by msm. Killings/ deaths , espionage, double cross, sale of our uranium to enemies, theft of technologies, blatant censorship, paid protesters,loss of rights, colussion between tech -msm-secret services-Democratic organization collusion with a past nazi war collaborator unabashedly sold out his own people on a daily basis , framing/ entrapment of a presidents frends possibly an illegitimate investigation by a very lifelong corrupt bush pal trying to throw Americans elected,anyone find it strange this spring a Russian plane carrying the top Russian instigators and accountant for the Hillary Clinton uranium deal crashed and they all died ? Yep should make one helluva story. Looking at all the people surrounding the situation that die or go missing it might not be a safe one to tell and dig into . I would rather read about bears fish wilderness racing ect .

      • Ramey,
        Just so you know we have a Russian National company that is a subsidiary of a trillion dollar Japanese company (Netcracker) operating right here in Alaska…their home base is in Moscow.
        GCI has hired them to do the billing and “operating systems” for the new conglomerate that Ron Duncan sold….
        And you are right, if any journalists are brave enough to venture in Syria to see what the Russians are up to in the middle east, then they wind up like James Foley or Austin Tice.

      • Steve , nice Washington post article. Heck of a deal . Very informative. You are a good man for sharing that . Hope for better treatment and release of those journalists. They are sacrificing a lot . Wow . Mind blowing.Also yes I knew about the Russian issue in anchorage / state telecommunications. Also please use the correct handle when you address my posts . Thx . Yesterday I read for first time zero hedge . You should Read their manifesto / protocol. It might help you understand the use of a handle and why . Besides the fact you don’t know me and it’s polite to address people as they wish to be addressed. Thx

      • Ok “Opinion”….
        We will protect your name…
        The only problem that I see is that if folks are scarred to use their real names for comments and opinions, then we will continue to loose credibility in many crucial societal discussions.
        After reading Tim Snyders’s most recent book on Tyranny, I am a firm believer of “putting your name” behind your comments and beliefs….otherwise we will continue to slip into this “Illiberalism” where only a few chosen wealthy power oligarchs get to decide our future.
        The choice is yours, but without a name, few people listen to what you have to say….and many points that you make are valid concerns.

      • Steve, people prefer a little privacy because the batchit crazy leftists notify their storm troopers through email and march on your house/front lawn and scare the chit out of your kids when you’re at work., ex. Bank of America VP. They are a violent mob that sadly is protected by our laws and Democrats in Congress. They are insane. Make sense now?

      • Bryan,
        Not much of what comes out of your “handle” makes sense to me…
        Here in Alaska we have laws to prevent crazies from marching on your lawn and creating havoc to your family and “domicile”.
        We also have the second ammmendment and stand your ground laws to protect oneself when it is felt that your life is threatened on your own personal property.
        It is liberties such as those that need a voice to protect their future in America.
        Our founding fathers were very adimint about this where they wrote our constitution and amended it shortly there after. (HENCE, they all signed their NAMES to it!)
        Once again, you choose to again make digs at those who sit on the left side of the aisle in Congress….nothing new with that.

      • — “We are living in dangerous times, Timothy Snyder argues forcefully and eloquently in his new book, ‘The Road to Unfreedom.’ Too many of us, leaders and followers, are irresponsible, rejecting ideas that don’t fit our preconceptions, refusing discussion and rejecting compromise. Worse, we are prepared to deny the humanity and rights of others.”

      • Steve . Thanks. Check zero hedge manifesto. Had a good point for purity of info transference . If information or thoughts can’t stand on their own two legs without a name then they are not worthy of incorporating. At this point my name is unnecessary. Thx again.

      • Opinion,
        Just FYI….
        Your Zero Hedge site was started by a Bulgarian “Hedge Fund” trader who was banned from the Securities Trade in 2008 (Think financial crisis caused by hedge funds).
        That person Daniel was found guilty of insider trading and was forced to sell his company to ABC Media which is part of the Disney Corporation (the largest media conglomerates in the world….ie propaganda)….
        So, I can see them wishing to silence personal voices and “Normalize” the masses.
        This helps everyone think the same way….Orwellian .
        As for thinking a handle allows for autonomy, well maybe to the front row of readers…but not to the government since they have your IP address and signature cellphone serial numbers.
        Ed Snowden has many podcasts online that you can listen to and see how invasive the domestic spying already is in America.
        This is why I choose to use my real name and stand behind my opinions since this is what the men and women that I admire most are doing.

      • As to hedge . What you said Makes sense . Keep in mind smear tactics . Snowden ! He is good info . Darn good points as to surveillance. What’s your take is he a patriot or a ?

      • Opinion,
        Ed Snowden is a very unique case in American History. He was raised in a fairly conservative family on the east coast….His father was in the military for over 30 years and his mother is still working as a clerk in a federal court house near D.C.
        He enlisted in the military during the Iraq War, but never severed in duty due to an injury that occurred in his training (He was Airborne).
        After this he went on to work for the CIA, NSA and private defense contractors….Very American.
        So, we should really listen to this man who has given up a plush “belt way” lifestyle to tell us the truth about government surveillance systems enacted after the Patriot Act was passed.
        He has given up quite a bit of his future and girlfriend, life as he knew it, etc….just so our civil liberties may stay alive.
        I have listened to many of his podcasts and also watched the Putin Interviews where Oliver Stone discussed the issue with Putin….even Putin does not consider him a “spy” or “traitor” to American People….and this is why he has been given a free pass to live in Russia and still attend interviews and meetings…
        He is a true “Exile” in the sense of history and past authoritarian regimes.
        Do I feel he should come home? Yes….but that is very complicated, especially with Donald Trump in charge.
        After 2 million dollars in years of investigation, the only thing that was uncovered is that he lied for one sick day at work….a day he went to meet with journalists and started the path to where he is today.
        The key point is that he did not release the info, he allowed journalists to work with the FBI and CIA and NSA and slowly get the story out as to the program that takes every single text, email, comment, etc and filters it through a giant computer that analyzes the data for info.
        But….even Putin agrees that this was not a matter “Of National Security” hence the treason type charges should not apply.
        I will let you research his talks and form your own “Opinion”.

      • Steve I personally agree with you 100% on Snowden . Technically I’m uncomfortable he went to Russia . Makes me wonder. I understand why he did though. He would probably be dead otherwise. Our government at that time would have likely disappeared and smeared his character. Bit tricky though. Russia ?

      • Opinion,
        I agree … the fact that Putin has our most advanced “hacker” in history is not reassuring.
        Steps should be taken to help him receive a pardon so he may come home and help America.
        Otherwise I feel he will just stay put in Russia where other foreign governments (ie.U.S.) cannot reach him.
        The funny thing is Putin has tried many ties to instate an “Extradition” Treaty with the U.S. in the past, but every time Washington has denied as they choose to hold on to Russian spies found in America.
        The Snowden case is very pertinent to this article though….in this case there was no “decay” in journalism, but rather the exact opposite.
        The journalists from the Intercept and Guardian meet with Ed Snowden in Hong Kong and followed appropriate protocols to the letter of the law.
        Glen Greenwald (an attorney by education) was paramount in working with the U.S. government and Snowden to make sure no information that would be detrimental to national security was released….they have withheld thousands of documents that were handed over to them.
        We have only found out a very small slice of what Ed had released and by all accounts the journalists from the Guardian and Intercept have done a very good job in protecting all parties involved….maybe that is because neither of them have their headquarters in the U.S?

  4. The real problem with today’s media are the corporate sponsors. Just take a listen to Alaska Public Radio and you will hear…”Brought to you by BP, Conoco Phillips, Red Dog Mine….etc”.
    How can these sources even attempt to be “non biased” in a world where…
    “Your Money is Your Vote”?
    Just take a look at this election cycle and what is and what is not being discussed by journalists…everywhere you look to media there are pop up ads telling readers who to vote for and few articles discussing how the candidates have voted on pass bills like (SB 21 and SB 91)…
    All the major news sources report there are 3 major candidates running for Gov….When in fact there are 5….sometimes the Libertarian candidate is mentioned (rarely)….But NEVER is the Green Party Candidate mentioned….Even though Kirk Wilson was born and raised in Alaska….attended college here in state at UAA and graduated with a degree that is focused on societal issues such as “Substance Abuse”….he also runs his own small business.
    All things that I feel are very important to many Alaskan families.
    I feel it is a discredit to our democratic process that none of the media sites chose to even acknowledge Mr. Wilson and his accomplishments.
    To guys like him, “My hat is off” for stepping outside of the narrow blinders of society.
    I only hope others would take the time to really research the candidates history, education and experience (especially their policies and voting history if they have served prior office)….with the loss of our natural salmon runs/fishing closures and increased pollution from “fracking” and large scale mining operations throughout the state, I urge folks to really think about all those candidates that are NOT for the “Stand for Salmon” Initiative…
    And that is all of them except Wilson and Begich.

    • All Good points . Also The advertising on what is supposedly good for Alaska and it’s water laws is pretty twisted use of information. Obviously pushed and tainted by the money behind it mining and oil companies. Often from out of country. Nothing wrong with money. It’s just a tool . But when you misrepresent information I think it crosses a line particularly for npr when it uses public funds to push its own agenda.

  5. Craig,

    There is no need to look at stories in Oregon for fake news, our own local media is full of it.

    The sea lion in Sitka last week was a prime example, the media fell all over themselves trying to make it a heartwarming story about how the sea lion made its way back to the water. Except it was followed around and harassed for a couple days before it was tranquilized, scooped up in a front end loader and dropped at the beach. To top it all off with a nice cherry they said it was last seen eating a fish it caught as it swam away. Really a sea lion that spent days on dry land being harassed pretty much nonstop and then tranquilized wakes up jumps in the water and snags a fish all for the cameras to see…except nobody was filming it because that isn’t what happened at all.

  6. Glad someone is highlighting the issues with journalism. I think it’s not just journalists. It may be writers in general with issues. I feel accuracy in writing is pretty important. As it’s easy to mislead people. Being as pen is mightier than the sword. Ive been noticing in school books the change and twist of history. Ideas are presented as facts which potentially misleads students. An example is the use of B.C in reference to before Christ when talking about our historical timeline. Some books are calling it B.c as in before common era . That’s a pretty big twist in history. All Religions aside – it’s twisting history as Christ was a historical figure and effected history massively. So in my opinion when writers mislead or change facts it makes everyone confused. I mean what the heck is common era ? That’s definitely no more pertinent or accurate than Christ’s effect on history and his place in time . Obviously that’s just a small easy example. I see that a lot . Even in sience books . Details that set students down the wrong thinking paths . IMO .

    • Opinion – one tiny grain of many. All by design my friend, all by design. The rewriting of history is a whole other topic. But, basically along the same vein.

    • CE / BCE doesn’t bother me too much. It goes back several centuries, so it isn’t a “new” secularization in the Christian West, and as far as history qua history goes, CE and BCE do maintain the same dates but eliminate any potential discourtesy of defining all history for all people of all beliefs in terms of our “Christ” and “Lord.”

      • Mathew – It’s a usurpation of the initials . Who made the decision? What gave them that power to change the way American children think of history? It’s completely arbitrary. If you were going to change a time line at least start with as static a date as possible. Say Big Bang – or some other actual scientific event that can be actually nailed down to a definable moment . Birth of sun – beginning of atomic decay whatever. It’s impossible to offend people if you go off Christ’s date unless they are looking to be offended. If we had been defining history by birth of Confucius or muhahamed or who ever it doesn’t really matter it’s same concept . What matters is casually changing what we call something by usurpation of their initials to change how children view history without discussing and having the public agree upon that change . That currently ties into how media twists facts when writing to push people to think one way or the other with disrespect and disregard to real facts. Such as the headlines of the article Craig was speaking of . Irresponsible inaccuracies. Imo

      • Hi Mathew . I took a look at your blog . It looks like you take writing a step in the right direction. Nice blog .

  7. I cut my cable 4yrs ago because of the biased, bootlick media blantantly covering for Obama during his 8yrs. But, to watch the blatant, unhinged, rabid, lying, biased, Democratic controlled “fake news” covering President Trump is laughable to say the least. I mean, there is no mistaking the leftist bias today. Their masks are off. “Boring” news sounds good but, it isn’t the case.

Leave a Reply