When I was young man, I found a WW II
aircraft spotters chart in my grandfathers garage. Seems grandpa was a member of the Civil Defense during the war. We lived in Pittsburg, California about 30 miles inland from the Pacific. Civil defense volunteers would sit atop city hall and observe aircraft movements and call any unknown or enemy type a/c in to authorities using such charts for comparison. I found the chart highly interesting and it eventually wound up hanging on the wall of my bedroom where I spent many an hour memorizing the shapes. All aircraft were black and displayed in various positions for identification.
Now let's turn to 'the media'. Having spent quite some time in newrooms as a Meteorologist I am well aware of the lack of knowledge and understanding of aviation and science in general, so, blaming the media for not reporting the correct aircraft type in a newsreport is to be expected. News Directors don't have the luxury of employing specific reporters to cover aviation related stories. Consequently, you'll see and hear some odd things, i.e., a story about a 727-200 but a picture of an L-1011-500 to go with it. That happens everywhere, whether it be in the news biz, advertising, or school textbooks. And yes, we expect car accidents as cars are driven by sometimes marginally functional human beings. However, if it has wings and falls from the sky, that's an entirely different scenario. The safety track record of aviation, especially in the USA and western Europe is phenomenal, so when a GA
or commercial flight goes down, of course the media is going to report it wall to wall. Riding in a car isn't nearly as unsettling to the human as riding in a winged cylinder at 35,000 feet and this causes the public to squirm whether first time flyers or Triple Gold Elite Double Dutch Platinum Coke Straw CEO's sitting in First.
That is why 'the media' over-plays any aviation story. It plays on our fears. Now, if the News Director would just buy a spotter's guide chart for the newsroom or provide a reliable link to airliners.net or some such website, the issue of mis-identification might be less of a problem. However, expecting 'the media' to be anything else is just wishful thinking.