14 October 2010

What's wrong with this article?

Have you ever attended an event that was featured in the news, and then read an article about the event the next day and wondered if the reporter attended the same event as you?  You find errors or misrepresentations, and then you wonder: if they can't get the details right about the events I know about, how much are they getting wrong about the events I don't know about?  It's a scary prospect.  In a similar light, I present to you the following news article from WBAL-TV (bold is mine).  Obviously this is not an event I was present for (thank God), but just a basic knowledge of local geography reveals some issues:
BALTIMORE -- A Glen Burnie man is wounded after being shot in Severn Sunday morning, police said.
The Baltimore City Police Department said it received a report that a shooting occurred at about 1:16 a.m. in the 7800 Block of Citadel Court.
Responding Western District patrol officers said they found a man with a gunshot wound in his upper body. The victim was taken to Shock Trauma, where he was listed in serious condition.
Police said that, according to witnesses, several shots were heard in the area of Citadel Drive moments before the victim was seen stumbling in the intersection of Citadel Drive and Citadel Court.
Further investigation revealed that a fight broke out in a party held in the area, which was followed by the sounds of gunfire, police said.
Two vehicles, a black Ford Expedition and a black Cadillac, were seen speeding away from the shooting, police noted.
Police said they are looking for a black male with a heavy build who was wearing a black jacket.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Western District at 410-222-6155.
A few things, actually.  The city is listed as Baltimore, but the first line mentions that the shooting actually took place in Severn.  More confusion in the next sentence the article contends that the Baltimore City Police Department received a report and responded to the shooting; but the 7800 block of Citadel Court (further refined as the intersection of Citadel Drive and Citadel Court) is in Severn, not Baltimore.  Lastly, the phone number at the end of article is the Western District phone number for Anne Arundel County Police, not Baltimore City.

So, here are the possibilities:
  1. The shooting occurred in Baltimore City, but the address is incorrect;
  2. The shooting occurred in Severn (Anne Arundel County), but the responding police department is incorrect;
  3. The shooting occurred in Anne Arundel County, but for unexplained reasons, Baltimore police responded.
#1 seems unlikely, because all of the other details suggest it actually occurred in Severn.  #3 is also unlikely, because Severn is not close to, or bordering on the city, where you might expect out-of-jurisdiction assistance.  Likewise, if something like that occurred, you'd expect the article to explain why the city police were responding to call outside of their jurisdiction.  By process of elimination, and by common sense, it appears that #2 is the correct explanation.  In this case it simply appears that the writer got the details incorrect, and that Anne Arundel County responded to the call, not Baltimore City.  What's also frustrating is that this story was updated at least once, 3 hours after it was initially posted, and yet this obvious mistake was still not caught.

C'mon journalists, you can do better than this!
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