Public Editor

June 20, 2013

Why no Flight 800 documentary story in print?

At least one reader says The Star “dropped the ball” by not covering the announcement of a new documentary about TWA Flight 800 in the print edition today.
I just got off the phone with a caller who identified himself as a retired career pilot with Kansas City’s own TWA. He told me he was “in disbelief” that today’s print edition of The Star didn’t have any mention of the announcement yesterday of a forthcoming new movie

that purports to have new revelations that a missile, not mechanical failure, brought down TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

“With as many people who worked for TWA in Kansas City, I just can’t believe your editors didn’t see fit to put anything into our own hometown newspaper about it,” he said.

I have to admit I was a little surprised too, as the story was a big topic of discussion yesterday. Editors mentioned it in the afternoon news planning meeting.

I’d agree it deserved a place in print. At least three stories about it ran on KansasCity.com yesterday and today, including an historical photo gallery.

Do I think it’s big news? Not really. First of all, remember it’s promoting a movie whose content hasn’t been revealed yet. This media attention is exactly what the producers were hoping for. Journalists should be constitutionally alert to these orchestrated campaigns.

One of the sources of the film is former National Transportation Safety Board senior investigator Hank Hughes, who has been beating this drum for years, as has the movie’s co-producer Tom Stalcup.

Stalcup promises new revelations in the movie. We’ll see. But remember, this is the very definition of a conspiracy theory, and we’re in an indisputable golden age of those.

But on the other hand, it’s my subjective feeling that these years of quasi-reliable information presented in people’s self interest in sources such as Wikipedia have made a lot of people weary and wary. There’s a conspiracy theory around every corner, it seems.

The Star should follow the story after the movie comes out — from both sides of the debate.

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