Monday, 20 September 2010

Motorbike accidents in the media - Part 15

I shouldn't need to say this, but: No, I don't know of any 15-cylinder motorbikes.

It's been three weeks since my last post - where did they go?

Before I start: I have, in the past, abused (with love) the Queensland Times for their RSS feeds, which consisted of a headline and then a description field filled with a copy of the headline. They have now fixed that, and have a proper, informative,  good RSS feed again. Well done.

Today we have four different takes on the same story - the death of an 18yo who hit a truck on the Brisbane Valley Highway west of Brisbane at 5.50am (AEST) on Friday August 27.

In purely alphabetical order we have:

From the ABC News Online: Motorcyclist killed

A pithy title, no? The article describes three separate accidents. The last one is a motorised skateboard, for extra dark-humour value.

Three paragraphs for the bike accident, with a police comment and a note that emergency crews are there and the highway is partially closed.

Nothing to say against this article - I'm guessing it was written from a traffic updates-style radio list.

From the Courier Mail: Teenage motorcyclist dead after collision with truck near Ipswich

Once again, another long CM headline.

Much more informative, concisely written, only a few instances of sentences straining at the seams to fit facts in, one misplaced comma, useful details of what the road closure diversions are, and an unattributed "Excessive speed is considered a factor in the crash."

At 5.50am the highway should have been fairly open, however the Brisbane Valley Highway is one of those two-lane country roads that winds up hill and down dale, trees up to the edges and driveways and towns popping up at random intervals, so dodging somebody else is difficult at best.

That note about speed is my only issue with this otherwise well written article: Why? Looking at the description, the fact that a truck could pull out of a driveway far enough for the bike to hit its trailer suggests that, yes, the bike was going too fast for the conditions. Possibly over a crest, possibly around a corner, possibly just being stupid.

But forgive me for not even slightly trusting an authority who says "Excessive speed is believed to be a factor" without some sort of justification, and that should be noted by the reporter and inserted in the report. "Police say the motorcyclist's inability to stop may have been due to excessive speed" would be good. Just "Yes, he was probably speeding." sounds far too much like towing the party line and jumping to easy assumptions in the face of inadequate information, and it is the job of journalists to hold authority figures honest and make them explain themselves.

Finally, from the local QT: Motorcyclist dies in crash.

The ABC said "about 6am", the CM said "about 5.50am", the QT said "about 5.45am." Um...?

Two paragraphs, which really didn't warrant the use of the word "horrific" in the lead. The second paragraph also looks like three which were joined together by poor formatting. Speaking of poor - "riding a motorcycle, which collided with a truck" is not only my pet peeve of attributing intent to that which is inanimate, but is one of the most egregiously misplaced commas I've yet seen.

I'd also be interested to know if the QT has an opinion about "a" or "an" before "horrific", but that's just a matter of interest.

A poorly written article, but I can't really quibble about the contents.

But wait, there's more!

The very next day, the QT had a proper full-length treatment: Teen dies in bike smash

This time, a definite time of 5.40am, and details including name of the rider and where he was going.

Some casual language, which looks odd but that may just be me, but some good use of the police spokesman and a nicely, classically constructed article let down a little by a couple of instances of poor subbing ("SHE told him", for example).

And, ha-ha, a direct quote from Snr Sgt McCrae: "We don't know if speed was a factor or why the truck driver didn't see him." Up yours, jumping-to-conclusions.

Unfortunately, the article says "the motorcyclist travelling south-bound". He was understood to have left his home south of the crash site and was on his way to work north of the crash site. Um, whoops?

If he was going north, towards Fernvale, but the truck had pulled out of a driveway heading towards Ipswich, which is south, then either the truck pulled across his lane into the south-bound lane, or swung all the way into the north-bound lane in order to exit its driveway. Either scenario left the rider nowhere to go around, leaving braking as the only option. Hmm...

This is otherwise a well done article, very neutral and free from editorialising or judging.

Moving on to a non-fatal collision this time, the CM gives us Woman hurt in crash between motorbike and lorry at New Farm.

Another CM story, another tedious headline.

Speaking of formatting, there is a weird atypical quotation mark in the last paragraph.

"Woman motorbike rider" is clumsy, "she collided with a truck" needs supporting evidence, and I would be interested to know who was going where, who had right of way and what the truck was doing at the time.

Not a particularly well written article, and an unsatisfying one.

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