Friday, January 28, 2011

Columnist Burns Newspaper's Credibility

Steve Sachkar, a newspaper general manager and sometime biz-column compiler, seems to think that embedding "... he said" into a wildly improbable -- and false -- claim is sufficient and responsible reporting. It's not.

Sachkar is promoting a man who cleans clothes dryer vents. He writes: "Roger Frechette Sr. .... states that dryer vent fires are the No. 1 cause of fire in the country." No, they aren't.

Sachkar's photo invites OWW's estimate of his age at somewhere near the mid-century point: old enough to know better. Working in a news environment, he surely has heard phrases such as "fact check" and "verify," or perhaps "biased, unreliable source." It seems almost willful for him to ignore such a fishy sounding claim from a man whose livlihood depends on frightening the bejezus out of people.

So, what are the leading causes of fire in the country? According to the Quincy, Mass.,-based National Fire Protection Association, in the five-year period ended in 2007, cooking fires accounted for 40 percent of home fires followed by heating equipment (18 percent), intentional fires (8 percent), electrical equipment (6 percent), and smoking (5 percent). The association lumps washers and dryers together to arrive at a figure of 4 percent -- sixth ranked, at best. Other fire-data collection sources provide similar information. None rank dryer-vent fires as a "leading cause," much less the No. 1 cause.

Sachkar's credibility has gone up in smoke. We suggest the general manager remove "reporting" from his list of things to do.

1 comment:

  1. Hiring practices are the number one cause of bad reporting, writing and editing of newspapers in America today according to the "If It Looks Like A Newspaper That Doesn't Mean It Is A Newspaper Association of America" based in Charlotte, Fla.