When it’s too much information

Charlie Hebdo

A couple of days after the attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris last January, the Kouachi brothers, the 2 suspects of the attacks, tried to flee and hid into a warehouse. The manhunt was widely followed and a live stream was a available on any major TV and radio stations.

Authorities were updating the media pretty regularly with information on the situation and told reporters that someone was possibly hiding inside the warehouse. Three major news stations: TV stations France 2 and TF1 and RMC radio revealed that someone was hiding in the printing shop whereas the brothers Kouachi didn’t know there was someone in the warehouse.

It turns out that the information was true and that a man, Lilian Lepère, was inside, trying to hide from the Kouachi brothers. The Kouachis could have easly gotten this information and try to hurt Lepère or hold him as a hostage.

Nothing happened to Lepère but he is now suing the news organizations for endagering his safety.

I think this is a perfect example of publishing the news before thinking of the consequences. Every news organization wants to be first and it leads to potentially hurt people. In this case the news organizations clearly failed to take a minute and think of what they were about to announce.

Picture credit: Wikipedia Luxembourg, Jwh. Creative Commons, Some Rights Reserved.


Operation Correction


Here is some news for you, journalists are human beings… Therefore, they make mistakes.

Announcing someone’s death when they’re alive, getting a name or a figure wrong… they are all very easy mistakes to make. The problem is that journalists’ main goal should be to get the information right.

Getting a wrong information on a newspaper article or a TV or radio newscast can cause a lot of trouble.

How much would you like to read in your town’s newspaper that you’re dead or that you got arrested by the police, when that’s in fact not you?

Anyway… I don’t have a recent example to give you but I am going to go back in time to January 2015.

On January 7, 2015, 3 men shot several Charlie Hebdo journalists and other people in a store in Paris. But how many people were killed?

There are 2 main trends… Some news article say 12, others 17…

I read in the Boston Globe the other day that “three homegrown extremists killed 17 people in and around Paris,” in French search home of beheading suspecton June 28, 2015.

The Globe doesn’t mention its source for this number so I couldn’t verify it.

I decided to search on Google what the French news organizations said about that number… Turns out that most of them say that 12 people were killed even several weeks after the attacks.

For instance, in February 15, 2015, France Bleu talk about 12 people killed. “Le Premier ministre Manuel Valls a rapproché cette attaque de celle de Charlie Hebdo qui avait fait 12 morts le 7 janvier dernier à Paris,” in Fusillades à Copenhague: deux morts, un suspect abattu.

But in January 10, 2015, La République des Pyrénées, states that 17 people were killed by the terrorists in Attentats en France : 20 morts dont les trois terroristes.

None of the articles I read mention any sources for the number of deaths… so I asked Alex Turnbull, journalist who wrote the Globe article, were he found that number to make sure that had the right one. I contacted him via Twitter.

Here is my message to Alex:

Hi. Just read your article on French attacks and wonder where you found that Charlie Hebdo attacks made 17 dead. DM me please.”

Unfortunately, he hasn’t tweeted back yet.


Photo credit: Dan Mason, Ethics. Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved.