Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hyperbole Doesn't Keep Us Safe

Media and Journalism

Last edited on February 16, 2017

Hyperbole Doesn't Keep Us Safe 

For the first time in many years, an abundance of snow has fallen on southwestern Idaho. However, during the first part of February 2017, warm weather returned to Idaho causing much of that snow in the lower elevations to melt. That snowmelt has resulted in some small streams and creeks to overflow their banks causing roadbed to erode and many news reports of localized flooding.

"It takes just six inches of moving water to knock down a human being."

The old newspaper adage "if it bleeds, it leads" holds true in both large cities outlets as wells and small town newspapers across the globe. And the Idaho media has done a keen job covering the flooding and temporary road closures. As of February 13, 2017 the excess water and flooding is on the decrease.

Hyperbole Hurts?
Sometimes it's hard slow down the flow of blood coming out of that "if it bleeds, it leads" news culture when it comes to reporting on stories of flooding. It's even harder when the events occur over an extended period of time. But the media should realize hyperbole, especially the kind that gets repeated so often that it has become an "alternative truth," doesn't enhance the credibility of their honorable profession. I can honestly say we are currently living in an age where that hyperbole is actually helping to accelerate the decline of the newspaper industry.

Six inches of killer water?
What prompted me to write this story? I just read a newspaper editorial that states "It takes just six inches of moving water to knock down a human being." Why do newspaper reporters find it necessary to use obscure old wives tales whenever streams and rivers overflow their banks?

I have had years of practical experience walking across streams, creeks and rivers that were six inches deep and, many time, much deeper than that. I can safely say six inches of moving water has never even come close to knocking me down ... ever. Even when crossing a six inch deep creek with whitewater/small rapids and a stream bed of slimy, uneven rocks and tree branches to trip me up I never has a concern. Heck, I wouldn't even unhook my backpack waistband when crossing a six inch deep, fast moving creek. It's not really an obstacle to most humans beings. And we usually write from a "most human beings" perspective if we are going to resonate with the largest audience possible.

My normal hip-deep in water environment when fishing - Sept. 2016

Six inches of water to me, a six-foot man, barely makes it above my ankles. Go ahead and pull out your tape measure and measure that six inch point on your leg. No, really ... go ahead and do it just so you know how ignorant it sounds to say "It takes just six inches of moving water to knock down a human being." Yes, I understand for a small child, six inches of moving water will be a big challenge to walk through and they likely will get knocked down. But not healthy normal adults.

Don't Fall For The Hype 
If you ever get involved in a flood event, use your common sense to avoid a dangerous situation. And when reading news of any kind, use your common sense (and a tape measure) to avoid being drawn into the sensationalism tactics some media members use to keep you actively engaged in a waning storyline.

Originally published on February 16, 2017


Tim Bondy
Freelance Writer

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