Spero News

Reporters miss the facts in New Orleans
Media runs several versions of the police shooting incident on bridge
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
by Bene Diction

Did police shoot eight Army contractors walking across a bridge in New Orleans?  Or did they shoot five or six looters on the bridge?  Did the police kill four of them or only two?  Whichever it was, the media has reported several variations of this story within two days and no one yet knows the true story.

At  6:59 p.m. on September 4, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that "New Orleans police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors travelling across a bridge on their way to make repairs...None of the contractors were killed."

At  7:47 p.m. The Las Vegas Sun ran a similary story attributed to The Associated Press that "police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs…Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said police shot at eight people carrying guns, killing five or six."

At 8:41 p.m. Mark Egan filed a report with Reuters that New Orleans superintendent of police, Steven Nichols, said "Five men who were looting exchanged gunfire with police. The officers engaged the looters when they were fired upon."   Egan then added a quote from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Rogers saying "[C]ontractors working on a levee breach were fired on by gunmen but no one was hurt," Egan then tried to clarify by adding "it was not clear if the two incidents were connected."

Egan's addition finds its way in newspapers and websites around the globe who reprint Reuters stories.  But most websites outside of North America added another twist to the events.

The daily newspaper, The Australian, reported on its website: Five dead 'were Army workers':

At least five people shot dead by police as they walked across a New Orleans bridge yesterday were contractors working for the US Defence department, according to a report by The Associated Press. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the victims were contractors on their way to repair a canal, the new agency said, quoting a defence Department spokesman. The contractors crossing the bridge to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain, in an operation to fix the 17th Street Canal, according to the spokesman.

The Australian also published Egan's report from Reuter's on its website.  Although the reports were wide-spread throughout Australia that police shot contractors instead of looters, the same news appeared in South Africa and Ireland. Spero News contacted the editor of The Australian and the Los Angeles bureau chief. As of this posting there has been no response.

Checking facts?

Throughout The Australian's article and Egan's report with Reuters, one can find vestiges of the original story by The Associated Press.

The following is a sampling of headlines that all contain the same events from the original Associated Press article indicating each is a rewrite of the original wire report:

Police Shoot Dead Two Gunman in Hurricane-Hit Ne

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