The Patriots Day Boston Massacre and Sketchy Reporting

I know that between all the different “breaking news” reports that were flying across the air in the following minutes, hours, and days after several bombs exploded surrounding the finish of the Boston Marathon, I was getting confused by what appeared to be major discrepancies between the different stories on the different networks.  Whether this was due to the fact that the news reporters were trying to get the latest news and present it the soonest so that viewers would watch their network for the updates, or if it was due to the reality that the authorities leading the investigation were not releasing information or were releasing only some, there was some incongruous information being given to news viewers.

The frustrating thing about it was the effect it had on the word of mouth reporting that inevitably follows listening to a broadcast.  When I heard something on CNN and then chose to relate that to someone else only to be told that I had incorrect information, and that multiple times, I was frustrated.

Without attempting to recount the multiple different specific points of information that were incorrectly reported, I would like to point out that bad reporting contributes to paranoia and terror intended by an attack like the Boston bombings.  Good crisis communication takes into account the fact that threat is perceptual.  Multiple bombs beg the question whether there are more.

A victim in the Boston Bombings

Everyone has lit a firework only to have it fizzle.  Will it go off?  Won’t it?  The fact is two bombs going off creates the same effect as releasing three pigs into the halls of a school and numbering them 1, 2. and 4.  The administration will spend all day looking for number 3, a pig that does not exist, and ironically that will be the one they are most frustrated and worried about.   By providing disinformation, the media managed to suggest that there is a third pig out there.

Crisis communicators absolutely need to provide clear and true information with certitude only when they are certain of its truth.  Probability presented as fact contributes to paranoia and fear.  This is a fundamental fact in crisis management, and it seems to be one that nearly all the major news networks ignored in the wake of the Boston Massacre because they wanted to throw some more snowballs at the troops, hoop and holler, and get people to look their way.

For more images of the aftermath of the bombing, check out link three below.

1. AP: Bombing suspect charged

2.Fox: Before Boston, warning signs Chechen extremists were plotting

3.Fox: Deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon

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The 787 Dreamliner: Boeing’s Battery Fiasco

After more than $100 million in losses, Boeing is still waiting for the Federal Aviation Association to give final approval for the 787 Dreamliner battery modifications so that Boeing can order its nine cutting edge jets back into the air.  Unfortunately, it may still be a few weeks of bureaucracy and governmental decision making.

(Frank Brandmair) A grounded 787

Ray Lahood, Secretary of the Bureau of Transportation noted in Mid-April at a press conference that he was ready to give Boeing the “go-ahead” to retrofit its jets grounded at airports accross the globe pending final approval from technical experts pouring over the results of more than 20 required tests performed over the last four months by Beoing.

Mike Sinnett presenting the new battery and casing at a Tokyo press conference.

Mike Sinnett, the Cheif engineer for the Boeing 787 program believes that the battery issue has been resolved and that the new batteries are more than capable to propell the monumental aircraft from continent to continent.  The 787 is a unique technological advance in aviation because it is similar (in some ways, or in concept) to the hybrid automobile.  The battery system is part of the energy that is used for the propulsion system.

Sinnett and other experts at Boeing claim that the new litium-ion cells and batter container are very capable and safe.  Sinnett was noted to have claimed that the battery housing alone can now withstand four times the FAA required heat resistance for similar battery housings, an improvement on the battery system that would have helped to prevent the failure in the 787’s in January.

It seems that the battery issue, though cost and time intensive, has been resolved.  Now there remains two continuing issues that must be addressed as a part of issue management.

First, will customers trust the improvements made by Boeing, and be willing to travel on the retrofitted 787s?  Boeing must work to regain the trust of its stakeholders.  This means not just passengers, but also pilots and crews associated with the various carriers that purchased the 787.

Second, as aviation technology advances, what risks are ethical and allowable when implementing and using the new technology.  Planes are different that cars in that, though they are much less likely to crash, if they do, passengers are most likely to perish.  The General Accountability Office of the US is planning to investigate the original allowance and permission for 787s to take to the air while they had clearly faulty batteries.

Resources:

1. “Reports: Dreamliner could be back in the air.” Fox News

2. Andy Paztor. “FAA Expected to Clear the 787.” Wall Street Journal

3.Carey Vanderborg. “787 Dreamliner Problems: How Boeing Plans to Fix Fire Risk Related To Lithium-Ion Batteries.

International Business Times

North Korean Nukes?

Threat is perceptual; that means it might take a single comment from an in-the-know source to create a panic, and a crisis.  This last Thursday

a pentagon official slipped up when a classified portion of a report on North Korea was released, indicating that North Korea now has the ability to put a nuclear warhead into a mid-range missile that would be able to travel at a distance of up to 2500 miles.  The US Territory of Guam is in danger – if the intelligence report is correct, if the North Koreans decide to actually follow through on their threats, and if the purportedly ‘unreliable’ missile technology they currently possess actually works.

Mashable.com

Nonetheless, when the White House realized the report had been made, Obama and his administration scrambled to make a response.

Secretary of State, John Kerry outright denied the statements in the classified report, saying, “It is inaccurate to suggest that (North Korea) has the capability articulated in that report — they have a missile but that is very different than having the militarization, nuclearization, etcetera.” (Fox.com)

AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

On the other hand, in an international UN press conference Secretary Kerry made a different statement sitting next to South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se: “If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community, and it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people’s temperatures.” (AP)

In an AP report Kim Sung Sim, a denizen of Pyongyang North Korea, said, “It is because we have a nuclear deterrent like nuclear weapons that we are able to live our normal lives and have a beautiful flower exhibition like this,” gesturing toward a beautiful flower exhibit put together as a part of the festivals for the birthday of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung. (AP)

(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Pentagon spokesman George Little says that the passage of the classified report is out of context:”While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.” (Fox.com)

We may never know where North Korea actually stand in their nuclear development program because there is so much conflicting information coming from the direction of the government.  But in this case, since threat is perceptual, is it possible that keeping a lid on the jar is the best thing to do?  Downplaying some of the information that was leaked would potentially seem better than if it all were public knowledge, because when it all comes down to the line, no one but the government can do anything about North Korea being able to launch a nuclear attack.  And the fact is, when people perceive threat but can do absolutely nothing about it, they panic.

We  made it through the Cold War.  Now we just have to deal with North Korea.