Fear Mongering on Local Television News
The title of this post is the same tagline used by local station WTLV channel 12 as a teaser more than a few times during tonight’s Monday evening NBC prime time shows.
It has become common place for local and national news organizations to rely on a culture of fear to entice viewers or readers because actual journalism is just too darn hard. But tonight’s teaser of “Why you shouldn’t ride you bike at night” was way over the line.
Even through I never watch this stations news, (this post is a perfect example of why) I tune in and wait through the drivel they call news so I can learn exactly why it is I shouldn’t ride my bike at night. About midway through the half-hour broadcast the news anchors give a 5 second brief on how Florida Highway Patrol is looking into (not to be confused with investigating) a Collier County Sheriff officer hitting of a cyclist last week and then proceeded to show the dash cam video from that accident. They also made sure to point out the cyclist had been drinking.
So, basically what I learned from WTLV is that I shouldn’t ride my bike at night for fear that I will get drunk and run over by the police. Thank a deity that we have WTLV to keep us safe.
What WTLV fails to point out however is that the cyclist is not a cyclist, but is in fact a pedestrian. Once a person ceases riding a bike and starts walking a bike they become a pedestrian. What they also fail to ask is why the officer “didn’t see the cyclist until it was too late.” It is a nice wide 4 lane road with a wide median. The officer is in the right-hand lane and the pedestrian is approaching the side of the road from the left. The person walking the bike is also moving at what looks like a normal walking pace. If the officer had been paying attention to the road, it only seems natural that he/she would have had to see something in the distance, a glint of reflection of metal or some kind of movement in the shadows of headlight as he/she approached the person. You can also see in the video that there is traffic passing in the opposite direction. At some point that passing traffic headlights would have silhouetted the person crossing the road. Maybe the officer didn’t see any of this because he/she wasn’t paying attention to the road. Go back watch the video again. This time pay attention to the the nose of the car. Do you see any sign that officer made any attempt to break? Does the the front of the car dive downward in that telltale sign of hard breaking? I don’t see it.
I’m not saying the “cyclist” wasn’t in the wrong in this situation. What I am saying is that WTLV should be ashamed for using video like this and the tagline “why you shouldn’t ride your bike at night” together. There is not a good reason why someone should not ride a properly lighted bike at night. I think they are doing a disservice to cyclists, pedestrians and the community at large. I also hope that in the future when accidents like this happen in our region WTLV and all other Jacksonville news agents will ask questions and check facts prior to airing.