There was a bad crash during last Sunday’s weekly Zoobomb ride and KGW-TV (our local NBC affiliate) decided to make it one of their top stories. They splashed this highly misleading headline on their website:
“Portland ‘zoo bombing’ ritual gets more risky”
They did a full report that included interviews with a Zoobomber and BTA Executive Director Evan Manvel. [A link to the video and the text of the story can be found here.]
I watched the report on their website and I was disappointed. KGW put together a misleading and inaccurate representation of Zoobomb and this incident. Inaccuracy is OK (we can’t expect everyone to know what Zoobomb is all about), but what concerns me was the tone of the reporters and the fact that they tried to create news, instead of just reporting what happened.
In fact, I spoke with KGW-TV reporter Keely Chalmers on Monday and she said they probably wouldn’t run the story because no car was involved in the crash (they initially thought there was). So instead of not covering the crash, they decided to sensationalize it and tried to make something out of nothing.
In particular, I question their misleading headline, “…’zoo bombing’ ritual gets more risky.” Crashes happen on Zoobomb all the time. Therefore, why would this crash suddenly make it “more risky”?
They also refer to Zoobomb as a “daring ritual,” making it seem like some sort of fringe, underground activity.
KGW even admits in their coverage that,
“Portland police officers said they haven’t cracked down on the zoo bombers because there have been very few complaints about them.”
This is true. But when you hear the way the story is presented it’s almost as if KGW is encouraging their listeners to pick up the phone and complain (and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them did).
The other sensational point KGW harped on in their coverage was that it was illegal for them to be riding on the highway. Just to clarify, it is legal to ride on Highway 26 from the Zoo down to the Jefferson Street exit (right before the tunnel). However at this time that exit is closed so there might have been some confusion due to a lack of warning and signage further up on the highway.
So let’s review: Zoobomb is a well-known activity and social group that rides down from the Zoo every Sunday night. It can be dangerous (if you choose to go fast) and last Sunday someone had a bad crash. They didn’t hurt anyone but themselves and even the cops have no beef with them. Where’s the story?
This type of coverage is frustrating and reminds me of a similar situation with this story in The Oregonian last winter.
I hope someday the media will get over their bias against people that ride bikes. I think once more of them begin riding themselves we’ll see a change in their sensibilities and reporting. But until then, we have to put up with this junk.
For more on this incident, read this thread on the Zoobomb forum.