George Michael’s Accident and News Reporting

georgeAccident

(Update: As well as the blog below, please see an additional follow up piece based on new reports)

I don’t have much to say about George’s accident last Thursday, other than to wish him a speedy and full recovery. I do, however, have something to say about the quality of news reporting that has accompanied it. In short, it’s been pretty damn weak.

Most news organisations clearly do almost no fact-checking before making their reports; and most don’t even use common sense. Rather, they just cut and paste from other articles they find on-line without question, without thought, and with regard for the truth. For example, five days after the accident, almost no TV station or newspaper had any idea whether George was still in hospital or whether he’d been discharged. In fact, most news organisations were reporting (incorrectly) that he’d been discharged. This isn’t a difficult to thing to figure out.

Today, The Sun newspaper ran a story based on an exclusive interview with a key witness to George’s accident. This was the first real piece of journalism on the events of last Thursday evening, and yet they kinda screwed it up (you can read the article if you haven’t already).  How did they screw it up? Here’s how…

First, they used a tasteless headline, “Scrape me up before you go slow.”  There are times when witty puns in headlines make good copy. This wasn’t one of those times. It was obviously a serious incident:  anyone that believed the official line of “superficial cuts and bruises” given out last week was rather naive. Apart from anything else, you don’t get air-lifted to a special trauma unit for superficial cuts and bruises. So, making light of the incident isn’t appropriate.  Not only isn’t it appropriate, though – the journalists actually weakened the impact of their own story by taking this tone. They broke a major story here, but much of the impact was lost because they treated it as a joke.

Second, they didn’t major on the personal testimony of their key eye-witness. They managed to secure an exclusive interview with a genuinely important eye-witness. What did they do with that opportunity? They focussed on her hearsay testimony, and made no attempt to verify that testimony.  That is, they majored on aspects of the incident about which the eye-witness could not possibly have any personal knowledge.  The headline quote from her that they ran with was:

I saw George Michael fall out of a 70mph car…

Did she see that? How could she know the speed that George’s Range Rover was travelling at?  The answer is she has absolutely no way of knowing the speed. How could she know he fell out of the car? Well, it turns out she doesn’t personally know that either. She was explicitly quoted as saying,

I thought someone had run across the road and been hit

Think about what that means for a second. It means she didn’t see the car door open, and George fall out of the car. He might or might not have, but the eye witness didn’t see it.  That means, by definition, that she has no way of even beginning to estimate the speed the Range Rover was travelling at if George did fall from the car. Yet the journalists accepted all this without question.  This weakens the impact of the story because it makes it looks as if they have no interest in discovering the truth of what happened.

Then, the other major piece of information they ran with in the article:

“He tried to open the car door and shut it again because it wasn’t shut properly and apparently fell out at 70mph.”

Did he? How could she personally know that? The answer, of course, is that she couldn’t and doesn’t know that’s what happened. She says she was told that by someone else. However, she might have misheard them; or the other person might have not known what happened either.  Yet the journalists accepted this without question. Again, it makes it look as if they have no interest in discovering the truth about what happened.

Now, I’m not saying that all this isn’t what happened. It very well might have been. The Sun might have everything 100% correct.  In fact, the witness might have seen even more than can be inferred from the story in the paper. What I am saying is, though, is that based on the evidence presented, the eye-witness does not personally know all these things happened. That means these parts of her story are the parts that are most likely to be incorrect. So, why major on these without question or verification?

For sure this article moved the story on, so credit to The Sun for that. However, the article raises many more questions than it answers. What questions? Well, I’m not going to do the job of the journalists for them by answering that. I just don’t know why they didn’t ask those questions, and why they didn’t try to find out the answers. It was in their own interest to do that.

Update:

It’s also interesting that it seems the eyewitness has sold her story and done photo shoots for the national media via this organisation that specialises in selling stories to the press – South Beds News Agency.  No reason she shouldn’t make some money. It may, however, devalue the testimony if you’re getting paid to say or agree with things that newspapers will want to buy.

Update 2:

This morning (Wednesday) the eye witness gave a radio interview on the BBC. It’s clear from this interview that I was entirely right in the blog. She didn’t see George fall out of the car. The first she saw of the incident was a man lying in the road.  As I wrote in the blog, The Sun decided to focus on things she didn’t see more than on things she did to make the story more “interesting”. You can listen to the radio interview here (2 hours 31 minutes 45 seconds in).

Update 3:

This afternoon (Wednesday) a BBC TV interview with the eyewitness.

16 thoughts on “George Michael’s Accident and News Reporting

  1. “Did she see that? How could she know the speed that George’s Range Rover was travelling at?”
    – Well, if she was travelling right behind said Range Rover, she didn’t really have to do much more extensive research than looking at her own speed to figure out how fast they were (approximately) going at…?

    “How could she know he fell out of the car?”
    I think this is a fair statement if you suddenly see someone flying out of a car door?

    I obviously agree that this is appalling journalism work. Never mind that they clearly paid her big money to talk.

  2. She is explicity quoted as saying she thought somone had run across the road and been hit. It’s unclear what she did see, but it wasn’t a car door opening and someone falling out.. Everything else she got from talking to other people at the scene. She might have misunderstood what others were saying. She might have got it 100% correct. It’s just that all these details appear to be hearsay, and not eye-witness testimony.

  3. I have said exactly the same thing. Thank you for reporting the facts.

  4. Hertfordshire police are interviewing her as a “key witness” according to the Standard Article, so apparently they believe she saw something of interest and is not fabricating. Let’s hope they ask better questions than the Sun journalist did.

  5. Oh yes, she’s absolutely a key witness. No doubt she was right there on the scene – you can see her Mini in the photo. That does not mean she hasn’t been persuaded to make the story as juicy as possible to make it of maximum interest to the press. She has even done a photo shoot in various outfits and poses with the agent, so different papers can buy unique pics of her to use in their stories.

  6. Thank you for your Blog. I read the article and headline yesterday which left me with more questions than answers as to the truth of what did or did not happen. The headline also was not so funny but the sun are trash anyway and try and sell papers using the play of words. I don’t believe most of her story knowing she was paid and did a photo shoot. Damn sick if you ask me😦

  7. I was shocked to read this story. I hope George will be well soon. I could see how you would want to close a door that is not all the way closed, but this wind could have pulled him out, and he didn’t have a good hold on the steering wheel. I hope and pray that George will be 100% better, and I believe we should all wait to get the story from George when he is up to telling us. I like him so much, and hopefully he will tell us what happened. We love you George!!!~ Lynda❤

  8. Media and human who says these things that is not true they are rubbish… Everyone have To look at their backs everyone have something.

    George is a good man and he is an adorable. He is famous with his talent ….. And so on.

    Leave the human beaning in peace … And F*** O**…

    At least he got family, friend and fans that they care for him.

    I hope he get better and full recovery.

    We pray for you George no worries… GOD ….. with you.

    Take care

    David Xuereb (MALTA)

  9. Thank you so much for this neat and conscise write-up Rem!

    So if I interpret all the information correctly, it is not at all certain that he did fall out of the moving car (for whatever reason)? And the so-called “eye-witness” did not actually witness the accident? And apparently there were other cars between her and the scene of the accident, since she says other cars in front of her had already slowed down?? But there was definately no other car involved in the incident? This is all so very confusing… But there are basically two possible scenarios though, right?

    Scenario 1: He did fall out of the car (let’s say while trying to properly close the door). But noone actually saw this.

    Scenario 2: George’s car had some kind of accident and he was injured while still inside the car, or he fell out as a result of the car having an accident.

    Or am I completely missing somethig here?

  10. Let’s assume for a moment that what she thought she saw is true. He fell out of the car because he opened it in order to close it properly. I’m not sure I agree that a) the time to do it is at motorway speeds (whatever it was) or b) without your seat belt on…!

  11. I agree. It just doesn’t sound like something anyone would do. Out of all the possibilities for what could have happened, this explanation seems the least likely to be right.

  12. What we know is that George was lying in the road with head injuries when the eyewitness saw him. We know that he was conscious and sitting up after the incident. We know nothing about the speed at which George sustained his injuries. We know nothing about how he sustained those injuries. It’s entirely possible that The Sun’s explanation is correct. It’s just that the eyewitness didn’t see any of it happen.

  13. Thank you so much for the information. There are no reports of the accident here America ;(
    Love your Blog! Thank you!❤

  14. I’m trying to piece together a coherent account of what she actually saw. Let me know if you see holes in my thinking or whether I’ve misunderstood.

    She says she was in lane 3, car in front of her slows down, she starts to switch to lane 4, car ahead of her in lane 4 starts slowing also. To avoid rear-ending the car in front of her, she slams on her brakes. At that point, in the radio interview, she said she “looked back and saw a body [George] in the road”.

    Perhaps she was looking back because she had just slammed on her breaks and wanted to check whether the traffic behind her was slowing as well? Or maybe the body on the road drew her attention.

    What seems significant to me is that I can’t remember her mentioning where the Range Rover was in this account. It may have been behind her, with George spilling out onto the road from a passenger door.

    She goes on to say that he was in the third lane, and when she saw him, he was bleeding and in shock. This tells me that whatever happened to George, it happened seconds prior to her first seeing him. No one is going to survive sitting in lane 3 of the M1 for long. Also, the shock and bleeding tell of a recent injury.

    Am I missing something?

  15. So many fans are being detectives and picking at everything even though the true facts have not been given. Even poor Fadi is being attacked for his reaction on the phone which could have also had quotes added. It wouldn’t be the first time the media have added quotes that didn’t actually happen.

    I just hope fans back off and in time George will tell us more. He wont do it on twitter which is what fan’s are asking for. If George does make a statement it will be like his last one 2 years ago and he will tell fans all the facts. Until then I hope the fans can just support him and send best wishes.

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