NTSB chairman vents about the media
By Leslie Miller, Associated Press, 08/24/99
BOSTON -- James Hall, the National Transportation Safety Board chairman who had chilly relations with reporters in the days following the crash of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s airplane, strongly chastised the media today for its constant pursuit of controversial and startling stories.
"Modern news today is driven by the portability of satellite technology, instant up-close and often monotonously over-dramatized and continuous around the clock coverage," said Hall.
Hall was speaking at Logan International Airport this morning to a group of air safety investigators.
He showed several clips of inaccurate and speculative broadcasting reports on air disasters dating back to the 1950s.
He had particularly harsh words for the coverage of TWA Flight 800, which crashed shortly after takeoff on July 17, 1996.
"TWA crashed tragically, we all know, killing all 230 aboard. That's as much as anyone seems to have gotten right," Hall said.
Among those he singled out was an ABC network news report by Peter Jennings saying Pierre Salinger had proof that TWA had been downed by the American military.
"We constantly hear rumors being spread by what we consider reputable broadcasters," he said.
Hall said tabloids and the "yellow press" existed in the past, but the public didn't confuse the two with the mainstream media.
"What does it mean to our society when it's difficult for the public to tell the difference between the two?" Hall said.
Hall said he didn't mind the press scrutiny, just the "continual barrage of bad information that is spilling over the airwaves."
Hall said he recognized the board had to adjust its way of doing business. He said he will announce new procedures in the fall detailing how the NTSB should deal with the press.
Hall was speaking to 300 members of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, many of whom traveled from abroad, at Logan's Hyatt Harborside Hotel.
He cautioned them that if they hadn't been exposed to the pressures of a media driven by a 24-hour deadline, they would be soon.