An Amber Alert was issued yesterday morning for a missing 3-year old girl from Sault Ste. Marie. Since then the child has been found, safe, with her Mom, who turned herself in to authorities.
As governors of the public airwaves, every radio and television station in the province is expected to announce the Alert. When I saw the first announcement in my email in-box and noticed a blatant error, I knew exactly what had happened.
Someone without a lot of experience must have read the police news release and was unfamiliar with the acronym Dob – for date of birth. So the little girl’s surname was announced as “May Dob”. It was obvious to me at that moment that her last name was just May and sure enough, within a few minutes a correction came through but not before a few other news outlets picked up the mistake and ran with it on their alerts, web stories and probably on air.
The police bulletin reads: Leila Elizabeth May DOB 18/Jan/2008. Anyone who has experience with the police terminology would know. There are other cop acronyms that you have to learn including VSA (vital signs absent) DOA (dead on arrival) and XRQ (I made that one up just to see if you’re paying attention).
It’s hard to describe the scramble of being a part of all-news media and the pressure to be first. Right, yes, but also first. It takes ages for a team to figure out its protocol for breaking news because it can come from so many different sources and in different ways. And if a team member leaves and a new one comes on board, the fine-tuning starts all over again. I am deeply sympathetic when these kinds of errors appear. They’re usually fixed pretty quickly. Human beings are imperfect and as my former work husband Paul used to say, “News means never having to say you’re sorry!”