All these suspicious reports about suspicious items sure are suspicious…
11:43 AM EST on January 22, 2014
We have a suspicious package problem in Oklahoma City. And no, we're not talking about Serge Ibaka.
On Monday, KFOR went to social media to warn its followers about a "suspicious, possibly dangerous" package reported at St. Anthony Hospital in Downtown Oklahoma City.
Police, fire crews give “all clear” for ‘suspicious’ thermos in south OKCPolice and fire crews have given the all clear for a “suspicious package” after a resident drove to the police station to hand over a thermos discovered in their backyard.Oklahoma City police say shortly before 1 p.m., someone found a thermos filled with foil in their backyard.The resident then drove to the Oklahoma City Police Station, near the area of S.E. 89th St. and Santa Fe, to hand over the item to officers.Officers say the resident felt it was suspicious so they immediately took it outside to begin investigating what was inside.
Oops. That was a story about a suspicious thermos that was published on November 21. Here's the one about the St. Anthony's backpack:
ALL CLEAR: Valley Brook suspicious item deemed harmless duffle bagCrews are investigating a possible explosive device found in Valley Brook Wednesday afternoon.Bob Moore Chopper 4 is on the way to the scene at S.E. 59th St. near Eastern.Police pulled over a vehicle and said they found what could be an explosive device inside.UPDATE 3:18 p.m. – The bomb squad has determined the reported suspicious item found in a Valley Brook car is harmless.It was a duffle bag containing a phone charger, wires and baggies wrapped in duct tape.
Geeze, wrong story again. That story was about a suspicious package in Valley Brook that KFOR hyped on November 6th. Don't you think everything in Valley Brook is suspicious in some way? I promise this is the correct article:
ALL CLEAR: Edmond North ‘suspicious package’ turns out to be lunch boxAuthorities are investigating a reported suspicious package at Edmond North High School Wednesday morning.Officials said the suspicious package was found outside the school near a drain near Danfourth and Broadway.Students have not been evacuated because officials said they are not in danger.Administrators have clarified that students were in a pre-planned bullying seminar in the gymnasium at the time of the incident and that they were contained.Bob Moore Chopper 4 is over the scene.UPDATE 10:13 a.m. – The bomb squad has determined the reported “suspicious package” is not a threat.Authorities said the threat turned out to a lunch box with food containers inside.
Oh, so the suspicious package they found at Edmond North High School in September ended up being a lunch box. I wonder what made it suspicious? Did some kid accidentally leave it outside? That's never happened before.
Anyway, I'm done messing with you. Here's the real one about the backpack at St. Anthony's:
ALL CLEAR: Reported suspicious package no threat at Tinker Air Force BaseAuthorities are investigating a suspicious package reported at Tinker Air Force Base Monday afternoon.Officials said the package was reported near S.E. 59th St. and Air Depot.Crews evacuated the area as a precaution.The bomb squad is on scene investigating whether the package poses a threat or not.Update: UPDATE 2:30 p.m. – The bomb squad has given the all-clear. The suspicious package reported near Tinker Air Force Base is not a threat.
I'm sorry. I did it again. That's a story from September about another "suspicious package." In case I haven't made a point yet, there seems to be a suspicious package epidemic in Oklahoma City and our local media loves it. Here are some more stories from the past year:
• ALL CLEAR: ‘Suspicious backpack’ on OU campus not a threat (Sept 10, 2013)
• Suspicious device found near Lake Overholser not a threat (June 12, 2013)
• Police remove suspicious package during Thunder game (April 25, 2013)
• All clear after Classen SAS locked down for suspicious bag (April 24, 2013)
• Streets closed for suspicious package investigation downtown (April 17, 2013)
• Suspicious package at museum was backpack (March 19, 2013)
• Downtown “all clear” after suspicious duffle bag reported (January 11, 2013)
So, at least 13 times over the past year KFOR has warned us about suspicious packages, backpacks, duffel bags and thermoses wrapped in burrito foil. In all fairness, they're not the only ones. Whenever a "suspicious" package is reported on the police scanner, every local news channel goes into red alert. They flock to social media, send out the helicopters and breaking news teams, and occasionally cut into regularly scheduled programming to "warn" us. And each time, it's a false alarm.
Of course, I kind of get why they do it. Thanks to the news media, we now live in a paranoid, fear based society. We worry and fret over the things that will probably never get it us and ignore the things that probably will. Plus, I'm not naive. As the Boston Marathon has shown us, the world has changed. In Oklahoma City, we probably know that as much as anyone. I guess we should be safe than sorry.
That being said, when does the local media cross the line from reporting news to just spreading paranoia and fear? Do they really want to warn us about a "suspicious package" or are they just wanting to generate ratings and page views on their website? Just because some person reports a lunch box was left in front of a school doesn't mean it's dangerous.
Also, there's no consistency in how the news channels report "Danger." You're more likely to get crushed by an idiot in a car than you are to get blown up by a suspicious package, right? If that's the case, why don't they treat ever drunk driver with the same hysteria:
"Suspicious driver seen leaving strip club in Valley Brook!!! Chopper 4 is on the scene. Visit KFOR.com for more details."
Of course, this is probably how the report would end:
"Update: Suspicious driver simply texting while driving. Since that's not against the law in Oklahoma, everything is fine."
Anyway, I'm not the only one who thinks the media overreacts whenever a suspicious package is found. I tweeted about on Monday. Mark Myers, the Public Information Officer with the
OHP OK County Sheriff (and Jessica Schambach's husband) agreed:
@TheLostOgle agreed they shouldn't report until explosives confirmed.— Mark Myers (@MarkMyersPIO) January 20, 2014
That seems like a good idea, but it would never work. Local TV news is a cyclical arms race that just builds and builds. The next time a suspicious package is reported, some news channel will flock to the scene, and because of that, others will follow. That way they can all say they were there on the live, local, late breaking scene or whatever. Then it will create hysteria and prompt more people to report suspicious packages, leading to more news coverage, which as we know, will result in more panic and fear.
Anyway, I got a couple of solutions to this problem:
1. Get the TV stations to sign a treaty or something. I'd even set up and broker the meeting. We could host it at my summer retreat in Grand Lake
2. Get law enforcement to develop a Suspicious Package Alert System. I think the news channels will like this. They can still revert to panic, paranoia and fear to report news and get ratings, but do so in a friendly, standardized way. Maybe have three levels:
Level One: Standard Suspicious Item That Will Likely Be Nothing
Level Two: Suspicious Item That The Police Thinks Is Dangerous
Level Three: Run For Your lives!
That would work for me.
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