Thursday, February 05, 2015

Media's Rush To Judgement

For 20+ years I have been a "commuter advocate", speaking out for my fellow riders on Metro-North in Connecticut.  I served for 19 years on the state-appointed CT Rail Commuter Group and later founded The Commuter Action Group.

Using my media skills as a former reporter and media trainer, I am often the go-to-guy when the media needs a quote about the latest woes of our aging, complaint-prone railroad.  I have never been shy to criticize the railroad when I thought they did something wrong.  Nor have I hesitated to rise to their defense when they deserved it.  This week I did the latter.

On Tuesday February 3, 2015 there was a horrific train crash at a grade crossing in, ironically, Valhalla NY that claimed six lives.  A packed train rammed into a Mercedez SUV parked on the track, killing the driver and impaling the front car with the third rail in a huge fireball.

Within minutes I started getting calls from reporters asking for a comment.  I told them I would NOT comment because I knew nothing about the accident... but I would explain to them how crossing gates work, what a third rail is and the distance it takes a train running 58 mph to stop in.

Over the years I've found that the more interviews you do, the more requests you get.  One reporter quotes you and others want their piece of the soundbite pie.

The next morning I got calls from local radio stations, NPR, Fox News and yes, "Inside Edition".  I did a few interviews but declined many, especially "Inside Edition", telling the booker I only spoke to journalists and her show was the farthest thing from journalism.  She hung up.

While I was happy to speak about commuter safety and remind motorists that crossing gates, flashing red lights and bells mean "a train is coming!", I refused to speculate on what caused the crash.  I didn't know the facts.  That's the NTSB's job.

But one thing I did say was that this time (the third Metro-North collision in less than 2 years), the accident was NOT Metro-North's fault.  Some reporters didn't like that and kept provoking me to pile on, playing the blame-game.

Sorry.  Let's let the investigations determine the facts.  Let's not rush to judgement.


At 2/09/2015 , Blogger The Class said...

Jim. I hear you loud and clear and could not agree with you more. That said,I am honored that you agreed to my interview for my column, "Connecting...with Bill Sobel on cmswire.com entitled "Media Trainer Jim Cameron: How to Handle a PR Crisis" you had some insights on the crash http://bit.ly/cameroncms1

Thank You,


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