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Amen. Of course it's a tragedy to have two helicopters crash in midair and for 4 people to lose their lives. My prayers go out to the families and friends of these gentleman. But quite honestly, I find it offensive the way the media (of course its one of their own) has potrayed these guys as heroes who go out day after day, risking life and limb....to bring me sensationalistic "news". To see the funeral (I watched the first 3 minutes) you would think that a crew of firefighters died with the PFD bagpipes and the two super-sized firefighter flower arrangements.
I dont mean to sound disrespectable to the families of those that died. But a true hero was killed that day and that was Officer George Cortez who was tragically gunned down by a sub-human and his girl friend. I really find it distatsteful that this story was the second or third line down on nearly every "news" outlet's coverage. The only class acts in all of this was the Cox and Bowerbank families. commiting to donate all the funds donated for their families to the family of Officer Cortez brought tears to my eyes. What an incredible show of respect and love that I'm sure is making their lost loved ones smile from above. God bless them.

Well said Benson.

I'm also disgusted by the TV stations' attempts at turning these guys into local, if not national, heroes. Like everyone, I'm very sad that the crash happened but these fine fellows worked for for-profit businesses whose goal is to chase what they define as "breaking news" to gain a competitive advantage which they hope translates into ratings and revenue. Many of the TV news directors include O.J.-style slow car chases in their definition of "breaking news." At the hangar where these news helicopters are kept, the pilots and photogs are referred to as the chopperazzi.

It is incredibly dangerous to have 4 or 5 helicopters maneuvering in tight air space in an urban area to get that perfect video, all the while jabbering to the anchor (and the producer) back at the station.

This event was waiting to happen. What a catastrophe had they crashed into the very nearby VA hospital. This media frenzy must stop.

My personal sensitivity to this issue may be based in the number of police officers in my family; my father, husband, brother and cousin all have left their homes and the love and safety within to go out in order to “serve and protect”.

When the horrible tragedy occurred Friday afternoon, we were all riveted. The horrid and unthinkable played out live, in full color and sound. My family watched the reports as we prayed for their souls and their families.

But, later that night we received a call saying there was a huge procession of police cars getting off the freeway. My husband turned on his radio, we knew it wasn’t good. We stayed up for hours trying to hear something on the news, beyond what we could get on the police radio. It was a worthless effort, no special broadcast, no special reports just an occasional and brief break in the stories of the helicopter tragedy. No reference to the daily peril into which these brave men and women walk daily, not for ratings, market share, and particularly not for profit. It is for our safety and peace. No free market system in the world of the police officer.

Hearing an arrest had been made, we again, tried to find out on television news what had happened. Who would do such a thing, who did this horrible thing? What about his family, how are they, what about his life…what about his personal story as we had heard about these news people? Sunday evening, we tuned into Fox 10 at 9 PM hoping to find answers to our questions. They mentioned Officer Cortez briefly following the helicopter crash in the lead with video of the two scenes with flowers. But they didn’t run anything else about Officer Cortez until 15 minutes into the broadcast and after all kinds of other stuff, including weather and sports blurbs!

There is no denying the death of four men on Friday afternoon in full view of so many was a terrible tragedy. They were good men, to be sure. They deserve to be remembered and honored. But what does it say about our culture if that is the story we all remember from that day and why?

I wrote something on my Myspace blog (personal) over the weekend. I'm glad to see this discussion.

Helicopters on the grassy knoll

I walk my dog on the same field that will forever (meaning “until the next crash”) be remembered as the place where two news helicopters and four local news employees lost their lives.

It’s a nice place, actually, if you’ve never been there. Bound on three sides by fences and trees, with perfectly sculpted rolling hills. Usually, other dog owners brave the park police to allow for some surreptitious dog ramblings.

Its where the Steele Indian School Park dog park should be, were it not for the illuminati at Parks and Recreation, who are somehow convinced that dogs prefer to run around on decorative rock at the back of the park.

But that’s for another posting.

This little tirade is dedicated to local news corporations and the utter lack of humanity that they exhibited over the last four days.

Let’s start with the most obvious: local news organizations endanger all of us on a daily basis, and disturb our peace just so they can get the best sightline on largely inconsequential criminal behavior.

It is a stretch of Jurassic proportions to assert that we actually gain much from watching car chases and convenience store robberies. We’ve all said it. But now we should be confronted by it like a bad case of nasal acne.

It is really worth it? Is it worth it to have the not-so-dulcet base tones of a helicopter vibrating the family china as hovering reporters with disproportionately large headphones yell at us to avoid 36th St. and What’it Ave. because a rabid homeless guy has stolen another Dolly Madison from Circle K?

OK, so the crimes under surveillance aren’t that minor. But neither is the intrusion and danger set upon us by the helicopters. And this just highlights it.

How many times did the super-detective reporters over the last four days note that we are only lucky that the aircraft did not fall on any homes? Yes, Ms. Marple, would you have gotten the point had they fallen on a home full of orphans? Would you have realized that maybe, just maybe, we don’t really need to see the crime occur to understand what we need to do about crime? Would you finally understand what the police understood shortly after a certain white Bronco went careening down the freeways of LA? That being that live pursuits only make matters worse.

Speaking of live pursuits, do you really think it was the fault of the driver of the truck that these choppers collided? Sure, he’s guilty of stealing a car. Quite a dope, from what I could see. But saying that he caused the accident is like saying that choking yourself by trying to eat five cookies at once is the fault of the chocolate chips.

No, they were just witness to the stupidity of stuffing your face full of baked dough.

And, yes, five helicopters in less than a square mile area really is like doing a Homer Simpson with five too many Mrs. Fields’ Specials.

All of this being said, I won’t even go into how the local media’s obsession with ambulance chasing hurts our society, in the larger sense. How, despite crime statistics to the contrary, do opinion surveys show that most folks have a Cops image of the average criminal: brown or black and naked from the waist up?

And my friend Amy Love brought up a brilliant point as she watched the live coverage: local media reporters are ready and willing to eat their young. They used the same practice of planting a camera on the nose of a mourning witness on their own staff reporters.

But, hell, they relished in it. It was an all-new low. They seemed to me as if they were more excited about being part of such an exciting story, than sorry for the loss of a human being. All this and the helicopters were still smoldering on the blackened grass.

For the albeit short time that I could stand watching, one news station focused on its two dead “heroes”, while the other focused on only theirs, as if to say “keep your ratings to yourself, buddy!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. These people who died did not deserve it. They were hard workers who took risks every day. But what were they risking for? What do we gain for it? Was it worth it? Don’t blame the guys working the dangerous job. Blame the news organization that is so unimaginative as to think this is the only way to get ratings.

“But Ken, you lefty ivory-towered academic,” you say, “this is the same old argument about shallow news, dressed all pretty and dragged out for this accident.”

Your right. I am dragging out an old argument about how insipid our local news it. But the reason it’s an old argument is that it has legs and sticks around.

And it sticks around because we don’t really do anything about it. We, after all, consume this stuff. Rather, we don’t call up and ask for something better.

So, yes, this is the perfect time to drag this argument out. For, it seems, my patient friends, that is the only time that we actually become introspective enough to consider changing how we do things.

I actually have hope in these days of media upheaval that someday soon we will look to our cell phones for the daily weather and traffic –the only remaining good reason to air affiliate news. We can get the important news –what our local government decided to do today with our taxes, for instance-- via the web or, again, from our phones.

OK, a little bit-o-wishful thinking. As if people would voluntarily dial in to constructive local news through their phones, when they did not when it was presented to them for free.

But, here’s to hoping. And here’s to hoping that four people did not die without at least leaving us an opportunity to improve something, some little thing, in how we relate to the world around us.

The thing driving me nuts is that Mr. Porn-stache himself, Andy Thomas, is trying to find some way to pin the deaths on the chase suspect. Now I'm aware of felony murder laws, but there's no way that this should ever fall under the scope of that.

And were it not for TV, would we even care about chases? They aren't really good fodder for the written word, and probably don't even translate well to radio play-by-play.

I have one other item I would like to voice about the helicopter tragedy, or at least an indirect concern.

I believe the NTSB investigation will eventually show just how difficult and crazy it is for a pilot to also be the reporter and commentary man, communicating with other pilots, flight control, news anchors, directors, etc. This is a scenario for an eventual tragic accident.

Information from witnesses and early statements from the NTSB seem to indicate that the ABC15 pilot, Craig Smith, may have moved into Channel 3's stationary copter. From the ABC station's video it is apparent pilot Smith was focusing on the car chase on the ground right up to his "Jeez" and the fatal crash. This is all preliminary and hopefully we will have a better picture after the NTSB's Friday report.

My point is that there is a whole lot going on in these cockpits which can have fatal consequences if they aren't paid attention to. Some of you may know that this same ABC15 pilot, Craig Smith, was somewhat famous for taking his dog Molly along on his flights. It was true for the majority of the times he flew but evidently not on the day of the crash. ABC15 would play this up as cute, and even had "Molly the Flying Dog" listed in their staff bios.

We can't lay any blame on Molly for this event, but am I the only one who thinks having a loose dog in the small cockpit of one of these helicopters is NOT a great idea? With all the other distractions? I can't believe the FAA sanctions this. Raise your hand if you would like to have the pilot's schnauzer bounding around the cockpit of your next commercial airline flight!

No doubt Molly will be a big part of the upcoming memorial service for Smith and ABC15's coverage. I've heard that there is another TV news pilot in Denver who also uses the gimmick of taking his dog up with him on flights.

I think this crazy and unsafe practice has to be stopped too. I'm a dog lover and owner but dogs, monkeys, snakes, or any other critter have no place in the cockpit of these news helicopters.

I don't think this publicity stunt is cute -- I think it's dangerous.

Absolutely, Ellis.

And, to put a finer point on it, these news stations are willing to let all of this go on over OUR houses. Luckily, this occurred over an empty park.

It appalls me that the news direcors at these local TV stations have given no indication that they will stop covering crap like slow speed chases. Instead of blaming the carjacker for this tragedy, they should look at themselves. It it ain't OJ, I don't care about car chases.

And if it is O.J. I don't care to see it!


Of course, society has to look at itself and stop demanding that our news be "entertaining". News used to be Chet and David reading the headlines with the occasional banter. Now, we've got occasional news within non-stop banter. I had stop watching morning shows because I feel myself getting stupider with each passing second (although I do like watching "Morning Joe" on MSNBC when I work out - it's a fairly good balance of news and views with a obstensibly moderate presentation - although Scarborough does tilt right).

As much as I love my "Dateline: To Catch a Predator", it's time to put down the pipe and step away from the teevee.

TV news is pretty much worthless, and I really don't think it was much better (though it was less gory) in the good ol' days. There's no scope for much beyond reading headlines in a thirty-minute show.

Now, of course, the standard is "if it bleeds, it leads."

Doesn't this situation (the copters, that is) seem like a lawsuit waiting to happen? Assuming that ratings-hungry station managers continue to demand copter footage (a safe assumption), and that there's another crash (another safe assumption), and that it involves deaths on the ground (extremely likely), how tough will it be for a tort lawyer to argue that the station was responsible for the deaths as a result of gross negligence?

Wouldn't it be nice if local media pursued this angle of TV station managers bearing responsibility for this tragedy because of their preoccupation with "yellow tape stories."

Dying from friendly fire on a mountain in Afghanistan is tragic.

Dying because you failed to effectively pat down a suspect before cuffing him is paying a high price for a mistake.

Dying because you were reckless in a helicopter is a stupid waste of humanity.

It's all about supply and demand. The public demands it, so the news stations supply it. That's why we don't have real news anymore, because we turned over the industry to supply and demand.

If you believe in the unregulated free market, you have to accept its underbelly.

Sorry Tom. I don't agree with your assessment or conclusion.

In fact, viewership for TV news, local or network, has steadily declined over the past 10 years or so, and so have their advertising revenues. That's a fact even though there are more people owning TV's now than ever before. It's not quite as bad as the collapse of the print media (as Greg has pointed out many times) but it has declined significantly.

All of the Phoenix news stations have seen a drop in their ratings and total numbers of viewers, and in some major cities like L.A. it is so bad that some news programs are beaten by infomercials.

If the public was demanding this trash then viewership would be up, not significantly down. The stations are dumbing down and sensationalizing the news in a desperate attempt to hang on to what they still have, and appeal to the lowest common denominator.

There is no evidence to support that the general public is demanding this junk. Quite to the contrary.

When my kids were young they would ask me if a movie was true, based on a true story, or “fake”. Because things look real doesn’t mean they are, the portrayal or representation doe not define the reality. I had to teach them the difference between a historical account, a dramatized effort to portray something that might have happened, and fiction. Today’s news broadcast could use the same rating scale.

I like John Hook and Carrie Lake over at Fox 10 - even they are honest enough to tell us either in words or facial expressions that a lot of the stuff they 'have' to read or show is 'dumb', 'stupid' or just plain not newsworthy. I appreciate that honesty.


As alluded to above, how can a so-called pilot/reporter conform to VFR rules while watching some moron drive around for the inevitable take down?

What moron in the news division came up with that job classification? I can hear it now. How much can we save in the cockpit if we let the pilot and his cute doggy fly and report at the same time? "Woof Woof!" Thats a big 10-4 from the pooch who had more sense, or luck, that his owner.

Just when I was ready to jump on the condemnation of tv helicopter usage, an actual legitimate use presents itself. We wouldn't have the perspective of the 35W bridge collapse without helicopter pictures. They are invaluable. Having worked in television news for nearly 20 years, I remember KARE-TV in the Twin Cities actually broadcasting live pictures from the helicopter as it passed over the area. Dangerous? Yes. Interesting and unique perspective? Also yes. The events of July 27th while unfortunate were unnecessary. There is no need to rehash what had already been said in this space. When I flew in the helicopter, the photographer shot pictures, I reported, and the pilot flew. There were legitimate uses for the chopper such as getting quickly to the scene of news quicker than you could in a car. Some examples include the former governor deciding after several years of retirement to announce he was running for another term in office from his ranch 150 miles away on a Saturday. A babysitter on the state border killing four kids on a Friday night. Helicopter gets you there, lands, you rent a car, get the story, and get it back to the station. Flood waters taking out a section of the interstate causing traffic back ups for miles. I could go on. What I never did was chase a stolen vehicle. The rationale that you can warn people of emminent danger to their neighborhood is ludicrous. Warning people driving in the area is even a sillier notion. Getting paid to fly a helicopter over a beautiful state like Arizona, taking wonderful pictures, talking to interesting people, is a great job. As long as news departments will pay for the expensive air hours, have at it. But please use it as a newsgathering tool. Chases, for the most part, are not news.

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