Reporters miss point with United story


Amid the controversy surrounding the United Airlines passenger who was aggressively dragged off an overbooked United flight a few days ago, a flurry of misinformation has surrounded the identity of the passenger.

Soon after videos of the passenger, not yet identified as Dr. David Dao, being dragged off the plane emerged on the web, news media outlets set out to determine the identity of the passenger. This led to some confusion over there being two Dr. Dao’s, one from Kentucky who had a questionable past, and one from Louisiana.

Reports identifying the passenger as Dr. Dao from Kentucky surfaced and soon news outlets and social media feeds alike were buzzing with commentary over the passenger’s salacious backstory as a doctor who had his medical license suspended for illegally prescribing painkillers, including in exchange for sex.

Questions about the identity of which Dr. Dao was on the plane circulated, with many on social media frustrated at traditional news outlets for reporting on the doctor’s past at all.

The story that should have been the focus of news reporting was simply the mistreatment of a passenger on an overbooked flight; his past was not relevant to the story. Focusing reporting on the doctor’s criminal record serves as an attempt to shift responsibility from United Airlines to the passenger.

Unfortunately, shifting blame to the victim is not unusual in the news cycle, something that has been evidenced through the news coverage of many police brutality stories.

The story was not about the doctor’s past mistakes, but rather should have been about the mistakes made by the airline in their treatment of passengers, the involvement of the law enforcement officer and a discussion of unfair policies practiced by airlines that hurt customers.