Not fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Voices -

The ed­i­to­rial ti­tled “Mother Na­ture’s cold shoul­der” may just ver­ify the idea of “fake news,” or at least “false news.” In the se­cond para­graph, the writer stated that Chicago was so cold dur­ing the po­lar vor­tex weather event that tran­sit of­fi­cials were keep­ing com­muter trains run­ning by set­ting train tracks on fire, and that Chicago, a place that should be ner­vous about fires, is pour­ing lighter fluid on ev­ery­thing. This state­ment couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. Chicago has no more in­ci­dence of fires than any other large city, and of­fi­cials are not pour­ing “lighter fluid on ev­ery­thing.” Let me elab­o­rate.

Train tracks are made of very hard steel, and do not catch fire very eas­ily, if at all, ex­cept dur­ing man­u­fac­ture. How­ever, some track el­e­ments con­tain mov­able parts, such as switches that al­low a train to move from one track to an­other. In ex­tremely cold and wet weather, these parts tend to freeze up. To pre­vent this, rail­roads have re­sorted to a sim­ple so­lu­tion of in­stalling heaters fired by propane gas, oil or elec­tric­ity next to the mov­able track parts to keep them free and clear of snow and ice. They do not present a dan­ger since they are con­trolled fires in a very lim­ited area, and trains them­selves are not af­fected by the flames since they are kept mov­ing over the track. This prac­tice is al­most as old as rail­road­ing it­self, and has been suc­cess­fully used for decades.

A jour­nal­ist, even when writ­ing an ed­i­to­rial, which is of­ten an opin­ion, is still ex­pected to be fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate. This is not hard to do. There are web­sites, such as Snopes or Fac­tCheck, where ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion is avail­able to con­firm the in­for­ma­tion pre­sented in a news story or even an ed­i­to­rial. This was ob­vi­ously not done in the case of this par­tic­u­lar ed­i­to­rial. Shame on the jour­nal­ist for writ­ing such in­ac­cu­ra­cies, and shame on the Demo­crat-Gazette for print­ing it!

RICHARD SCHREIBMAN Fayet­teville

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