Wednesday morning in East Harlem, there was not only a deadly explosion that leveled two buildings, but an absurd amount of television speculation.
The 9:30 a.m. Park Avenue explosion, later revealed to be caused by a gas leak, prompted every major television station to gain some kind of “exclusive” on the scene, whether it was a helicopter shot of the fallen debris or a 20-second interview of a bystander repeated hourly.
Once I heard about the explosion I wanted more information, so I turned to television. One minute, they suggest a conspiracy theory, the next, an interview of a woman with a dog, screaming about her windows being broken.
Emergencies don’t exactly promote good journalism.
However, this accident really prompts me to mention the need for the dying field of print journalism — the one place where fact checking still outweighs the timeliness of getting the story first. No speculation or fluff. Just the straight facts. So here you go, from me to you, the facts as of print time according to CBS and an earlier press conference:
-One of the buildings that collapsed had a piano repair shop with apartments above. The second building housed a church.
-The fire department said a third person has been confirmed dead, at least nine people are missing and more than 20 people have been injured, including two with life-threatening injuries.
-The two buildings that collapsed had a total of 15 residential units and preliminary research suggests one of the buildings did not have permission to have tenants.
-The gas leak was reported 15 minutes before the explosion occurred, but Con Ed workers came minutes late.
-It’ll take some time for firefighters and respondents to get into the debris and know the cause and final casualty count for sure.
“We don’t want to speculate the number of people who may have been in the building until we get closer,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference.
It is certainly a difficult time for residents of the Harlem region, and anyone affected by the explosion or missing persons, but constant speculation in the media just promotes panic and inaccurate information. Food for thought.