No Alarm Bells at The New York Times

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On Monday, January 23, 2006 The New York Times took a front page look at an all—female fire engine company in San Diego and finds a feel good buddy story, while missing the larger public safety issues.

The engineer, Melissa Cleary, 47, who maintains and drives the fire engine and has worked for the department here for 16 years, said she felt that as a female firefighter working with men, "You can't mess up."

"The thing about the four of us being together," Ms. Cleary said, "is we can make mistakes and we can laugh at one another and you don't have to feel like you're never going to hear the end of it."

When exactly are these humorous mistakes occurring?  Firefighting is a dangerous profession.  The idea that "you can't mess up" seems to be the proper attitude for her safety and the public. Every fire safety professional should know that given the dangers they and the public are exposed to, mistakes are potential life and death issues.

Equally troubling is her comment:

"What if you need help with something?" she added. "I would never ask a man to help me with something." 

Again, it would seem that in a dangerous profession where lives are at stake, this would be an unacceptable attitude. 

It seems in their haste to do a feel good piece, the NYT overlooked the bigger public safety issues raised in this article.  Equally stunning is that Ms. Cleary's second statement above ..."The thing about the four of us.....was the NYT Quote of the Day!   In addition to the reporter and her editor missing the alarm bells these statements set off, so did those who selected the quote.

John Burns   1 26 06

On Monday, January 23, 2006 The New York Times took a front page look at an all—female fire engine company in San Diego and finds a feel good buddy story, while missing the larger public safety issues.

The engineer, Melissa Cleary, 47, who maintains and drives the fire engine and has worked for the department here for 16 years, said she felt that as a female firefighter working with men, "You can't mess up."

"The thing about the four of us being together," Ms. Cleary said, "is we can make mistakes and we can laugh at one another and you don't have to feel like you're never going to hear the end of it."

When exactly are these humorous mistakes occurring?  Firefighting is a dangerous profession.  The idea that "you can't mess up" seems to be the proper attitude for her safety and the public. Every fire safety professional should know that given the dangers they and the public are exposed to, mistakes are potential life and death issues.

Equally troubling is her comment:

"What if you need help with something?" she added. "I would never ask a man to help me with something." 

Again, it would seem that in a dangerous profession where lives are at stake, this would be an unacceptable attitude. 

It seems in their haste to do a feel good piece, the NYT overlooked the bigger public safety issues raised in this article.  Equally stunning is that Ms. Cleary's second statement above ..."The thing about the four of us.....was the NYT Quote of the Day!   In addition to the reporter and her editor missing the alarm bells these statements set off, so did those who selected the quote.

John Burns   1 26 06