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Denver TV station’s claim ‘Paramedics ignore request to help injured boy’ falls apart

Attempts to correct story fall short

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(UPDATE: A week after the original story aired, all video from both stories has finally been removed from KMGH-TV’s website and YouTube. The articles remain up without correction and/or apology.)

On Friday, KMGH-TV/Denver 7 aired the story (above) with the banner “PARAMEDICS IGNORE REQUEST TO HELP INJURED BOY”. Using cell phone video and the words of an anonymous eyewitness, reporter Lance Hernandez told of an ambulance crew in traffic near where a child was struck Thursday refusing a request to provide assistance, riding past the scene without stopping. After the story aired, dispatch audio posted anonymously on Facebook (below) presented a very different picture. Denver 7 is now getting hundreds of negative comments on its Facebook page.

Reporter Hernandez updated the story last (Sunday) night (below) using the dispatch recording that indicates the EMS crew was actually trying to find the scene and not ignoring the the call for help. The latest story still leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the incident, in part because the lack of a response by the EMS provider.

The new story also does not address the journalistic failings of the initial reporting and makes a lot of excuses for those mistakes. At this point, the sloppy journalism is more significant than whether or not it’s determined the ambulance crew did anything wrong. If they care about their own reputation the management at Denver 7 should be offering a public apology today.

A man saw a boy get hit by a car in the intersection near Leetsdale & Quebec in Denver and flagged down a South Adams County – Northglenn ambulance that was passing by (not their response area).They called it in and then tried to get turned around in heavy traffic, even with bad directions, to try to get to the boy. Dispatch told them it had already been called in and police and medical (from that area) were on their way and were nearby.The Northglenn ambulance made sure they found their way to the scene and make sure the Denver Health ambulance was taking care of the situation and then left.Somehow that man that flagged down the ambulance and only saw the boy hit from a distance, also did not stay long enough to see the ambulance turn around and go help.So then you have this story from 7News that got dispatch audio from Denver police, but for some reason, not from the ambulance themselves and went with the story that they ignored the man. The ambulance company is a non-profit that helps many people and they did not do anything wrong. They do not deserve this story… that just happens to be wrong.Here is the story from 7News: play and listen for yourselves.

Posted by Denver Crime Watch on Saturday, August 25, 2018

While there is outrage on Facebook, most of the comments don’t seem to understand the real errors made with this story. The comments also contain a lot of misinformation, along with some questionable posts by the reporter. Here’s my attempt to address those issues:

  • In the story, the anchor lead-in has the phrase “but paramedics won’t help him” immediately followed by “That’s exactly what happened last night”. In addition, the lower third banner says, “Paramedics Ignore Request To Help Injured Boy.” All are presented in the story as facts. There’s no attribution indicating the source of those “facts”. When this story aired, the TV station had no clue whether those statements were true or not. They still don’t. Just because a witness told them something and the reporter or producer thinks they know what they saw on the video doesn’t make them facts. That’s bad journalism.
  • It’s great that reporter Lance Hernandez is directly answering complaints on the TV station’s Facebook page, but some of his answers are raising more questions. Hernandez’s main defense is the claim that’s what the lone witness told him. Here’s one of those comments: “I wasn’t there, but the witness is ADAMANT that the Northglenn crew did NOT render aid, which is the point of our story.”  What Lance Hernandez fails to say is it’s his job–before the story airs–to confirm the accuracy of what the witness told him. This is especially true when the main thrust of the story relies on the word of just one anonymous source.
  • Lance Hernandez told one critic, “if they were 100 yards away from the scene, but couldn’t find it until after another crew was already there, that raises some SERIOUS questions.” Pretty judgmental on Hernandez’s part considering he doesn’t know exactly what the EMS crew saw from inside the ambulance. It’s not like the crew was lost and didn’t know the area. They may have been looking in the other direction when they passed the intersection and missed the scene. The “witness” may have given them wrong information. There are a lot of other possibilities that don’t raise “some SERIOUS questions.”
  • What you see on video can always be improved by additional context. It’s important for reporters and the public to remember this in an effort to avoid jumping to conclusions.

  • South Adams County Paramedics-Northglenn Ambulance is now going to be my exhibit A for why it’s important not to just say “it’s under investigation” or “no comment” when reporters come a-calling. Just by listening to the dispatch recording, the EMS provider should have been able to tell they had preliminary information that gives an entirely different impression of this incident. Yes, it would be great to have the luxury of more time. That’s not how real life works these days. We are in an era where your reputation can be destroyed at the speed of light. Telling your story after the original story airs will not put the genie back in the bottle. I am hoping Mr. Hernandez gave the EMS group enough time to provide that preliminary information. Armed with that info, those in charge may have been able to convince the reporter this was not really a story. If they couldn’t sway Hernandez to kill the story, they should have had a representative on camera explaining what occurred (assuming the reporter offered that option). Two days after the original story there’s still no comment from South Adams County Paramedics-Northglenn Ambulance for the follow-up report. When you are certain the story is wrong, the facts are on your side and it’s not just your ego speaking, aggressively defend the organization. At this point, South Adams County Paramedics-Northglenn Ambulance still needs to tell its story.
  • People on Facebook are saying a lot of things about HIPAA that aren’t true. Many of us know that’s par for the course.
  • Despite claims to the contrary in the Facebook comments, there’s nothing illegal or in violation of anyone’s rights because the bystander took video of the victim on the street. This occurred in a public place where there’s no expectation of privacy, even for juveniles. Just because we don’t like it or think it’s unethical doesn’t make it illegal.
  • People need to stop with the boycott crap, no matter the slight. Yes, everyone should demand this TV station provide accountability for its reporting. Sunday night’s report didn’t do that. The station should answer for its poor journalism and the discrepancies between what was originally reported and what’s on the dispatch audio. Denver 7 needs to provide the transparency they demand from everyone else. People should give the TV station the chance to do the right thing.

A Denver dad who witnessed a serious crash involving a pedestrian on Leetsdale Drive Thursday night says he wants to know why two paramedics ignored his requests to help a young boy injured in that crash.

Posted by Denver7 on Friday, August 24, 2018

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