CNN: When Bad Things Happen to a Sad Story

A baseball story with a sack of errors: a CNN anchor, T. J. Holmes, recently told viewers:

"A Texas Rangers fan fell 20 feet, head first, to his death at a game last night. The man was at this game with his son when he [the father or the son?] reached over the railing for a ball that was thrown into the stands by star outfielder Josh Hamilton. [Where was the game?] The fan was not immediately identified." Not immediately identified? The fan had been identified at various websites for many hours before Holmes delivered that snippet last Friday, July 8, about 2:20 p.m., ET. Maybe he meant the fan was not immediately identified after the accident. But why say he hadn't been immediately identified 18 hours after the accident—and long after the fan had been identified?

More than seven hours before Holmes told us about the accident, the AP had moved a story identifying the fan as Shannon Stone, 39, a fireman, of Brownwood, Texas.

About 20 minutes after Holmes mentioned the accident on his Friday afternoon newscast, he told viewers:

"We are just getting a statement in from Major League Baseball we want to share with you. [My play-by-play review below.] You have seen probably by now the story. Unfortunately, a man, a fan at a Texas Rangers game last night died when he fell from the stands. He went down head first some 20 feet as he was trying to reach for a baseball that one of the players just tossed into the crowd so the fans could have. It was one of these foul balls. It was out of play and oftentimes they'll just toss them up and let the fans have them. He was reaching for it and fell over. He went down 20 feet. He was actually conscious, the players say, as he was leaving on the stretcher, but then died later as he was being rushed to the hospital. Major League Baseball putting out this statement and I'm just going to quote here for you. It says, "All of us here at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened over the tragic death of Mr. Stone, the evening, last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son and his entire family. Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans." Now, they mentioned the son in the statement there. The son was right there with him and watched his dad go over the railing there. Some of the ball players report that even the man was asking about his son, saying, "Someone check on my son" as he was being taken out. But an unfortunate incident last night, Major League Baseball alluding to possibly looking at changing not necessarily a policy, but of having the players toss the balls up into the stands, because oftentimes when foul balls, any time the balls go into the stands, fans oftentimes go after them pretty aggressively. We have seen incidents and accidents before, people being injured, but a death here, and it's certainly unfortunate one. But the latest there from Major League Baseball."

Now let's look at that thicket of words in slo-mo—and see how CNN dropped the ball:

"We are just getting [better: we've just received] a statement in [delete in] from Major League Baseball we want to share with you. [Anchors and reporters everywhere: Don't share with us; tell us.] You have seen probably by now the story. [Sounds like Pennsylvania Dutch: "Throw mama from the train a kiss"; And why tell viewers they've probably seen the story?] Unfortunately [no need to tell us it was unfortunate; it's obvious; in fact, it was far worse than unfortunate], a man, a fan at a Texas Rangers game [Where was the game? And what's the name of the other team?] last night died when he fell from the stands. He went down [better: fell] head first some 20 feet as he was trying to reach for [trying to reach for = reaching for] a baseball that one of the players just tossed into the crowd so the fans could have. [Yes, the last word in that sentence should be it. But I’m adhering to the wording of the CNN transcript. CNN calls it a “rush transcript...that may not be in its final form”; Holmes should proceed chronologically in describing the fan’s reaching for the ball and then falling.]

"It was one of these foul balls. [these?] It was out of play [Most non-fans probably don't know what out of play means.] and oftentimes [often!] they'll just toss them up and let the fans have them. He [who he?] was reaching for it and fell over. He went down 20 feet [repetitious].

"He was actually [superfluous] conscious, the players say, as he was leaving on the stretcher [better: The players say he was conscious as he was leaving….], but then died later as he was being rushed to the hospital. [better: He died in an ambulance taking him to a hospital.] Major League Baseball putting out [correct: put out] this statement and I'm just going to quote here for you [delete and I'm just going to quote here for you.]. It says [delete it says], 'All of us here at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened over the tragic death of Mr. Stone, the evening, last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son and his entire family. Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity [self-serving; anchor should remind audience of source.] to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans.'

"Now [now?], they [MLB is an it, not a they] mentioned the son in the statement there [there?]. The son was right there with him and watched his dad go over the railing there. [There three times in one breath.] Some of the ball players [note to transcriber: ballplayers is one word] report [better: say] that even [even?] the man was asking about his son, saying, "Someone check on my son" as he was being taken out. [better: "Some players say that after the man fell, he was still alert--and asked about his son"; the son's age should be included; he's 6.]?

"But an unfortunate [again, unfortunately] incident last night, Major League Baseball alluding to possibly looking at changing not necessarily a policy, but of having the players toss the balls up into the stands, because oftentimes when foul balls, any time the balls go into the stands, fans oftentimes [oftentimes twice in one sentence? And used for the third time? Further, the MLB statement didn't say or imply what Holmes said.] go after them pretty aggressively. We have seen incidents and accidents [why both?] before, people being injured, but a death here [here? In the CNN studio? The fatal fall was the second such fall in a major league ballpark this season], and it's certainly unfortunate one. But the latest there [there again?] from Major League Baseball." Still missing is Shannon Stone's first name. I'm old school: I like last names accompanied by first names. I'd like to know Stone's name, age, occupation and where he lived. Also missing: a coherent account.

I don't have the time or patience to point out all the broadcast's shortcomings, but I'd like to know, Where was the editor? Where was the producer? Where was Holmes himself?

That CNN presentation deserves a K; baseball fans who keep scorecards know that's the symbol for a strikeout.

© Mervin Block 2011

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