Tragedy not a laughing matter

I’m sure there is one person, possibly even a couple, who woke up this morning finding themselves heading to the unemployment line.

And that should be the case in this particular situation.

By now, we’ve all heard about the tragedy of the crash in San Francisco involving Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on July 6.

We’ve heard the discussions of what is believed to have happened. We’ve heard about the few fatalities as a result of the crash.

We’ve heard about the bravery of the plane’s attendants in helping the passengers once a fire was spotted and their efforts to make certain this disaster didn’t become worse than it already had.

Unfortunately, there are some who took an opportunity to show a total lack of class and have some “fun” as a result.

On Friday, San Francisco-area television station KTVU aired a segment listing what they said were the names of the flight crew of the plane in question.

Anyone who looked closely probably should have known something was up as the names in question, while appearing to be Asian in origin, actually were put together to form some “comedic” phrases.

The station ran the segment, with the anchor carefully reading each “name.”

Later in the day, they aired an apology, explaining the names, in fact, were fake, saying they had received them and double-checked with the National Transportation Safety Board to verify the names were accurate.

The NTSB, on the other hand, said the names originated from the station, but that a summer intern had acted beyond his scope by confirming the names. The NTSB explained they don’t confirm names of people involved in accidents, and the intern was just trying to be helpful by doing something he was not supposed to.

So, basically, both have since apologized but are pointing the finger at each other.

In the meantime, these racially insensitive names have been broadcast and put out on the Internet, probably available for anyone who wants to see them.

I won’t be repeating the names because of the connotations, but they are available for anyone who is really interested in finding them.

We may never know for sure where the names originated, but the point to all of this is, the “joke” was inappropriate.

People – albeit only a few – died, and others are badly injured. This could have been much worse, and there will surely be investigations and studies for quite some time. There could even be more procedures put in place as a result.

It was not the place for a joke to be made.

We all need a good laugh every now and again. We probably wouldn’t be able to get through life without experiencing something funny every once in a while. I know I?definitely couldn’t.

But there also are times when no joke is appropriate. There are times when being serious and acting professionally must win out against trying to lighten the mood.

I hope when the person who put forth these “names” is located, he or she is reminded of that.

It also should serve as a reminder for those of us in the news business. We are in a rush more than ever to be the first to report information, but sometimes it pays to take our time and make sure the information is accurate and confirmed on multiple levels.

Be familiar with the procedures of a particular agency, read over your information before you put it out for the public to see, hear, read or otherwise consume.

I hope this incident gives everyone involved an opportunity to revisit how they perform their jobs, and make sure the best information is provided in the best way possible. Perhaps some new regulations will even be put into place.

Make sure the rules are followed and such a terrible accident does not get turned into a joke.

A tragedy simply is not a laughing matter.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)