A few weeks ago, Brooklyn writer Noah Shannon wrote a New York Times feature purporting to chronicle his near-death experience on a flight from D.C. that made
an emergency a precautionary landing in Philadelphia. No one who knows anything about aviation believed him.
Writer and pilot James Fallows, who knows quite a lot about aviation, checks in:
I was not on that plane, but I can tell you: This. Did. Not. Occur. The dangling cap-in-hand; the sweat stains; the captain coming out of the cockpit and saying he would "yell" his commands; the "not going to sugarcoat it" and "just going to try to land it." No.
Today he got Shannon on the record:
What have you learned about from this experience? Are you intending to make your career in reportorial-based journalism, in academic essays? What do you know now about yourself and your plans based on this last month?
Well, I would love to continue to write nonfiction--to continue to report. I guess the last month has instilled in me a greater need for careful scrutiny of my own work. It was driven home to me that it was wrong to give the impression of certainty, of fact, and the things I was a little uncertain or hazy on, I should have qualified those observations, and I think that would have been the better journalistic thing to do--or done more background research. But I didn't at the time, and I have to apologize to the readers and The New York Times for that, and I take full responsibility. Looking forward, I can only hope to do better work and use this motivation to do better work in the future.
Yeah. You know, I edited a newspaper when I was 21, and I didn't need to be told not to—how does one say? embellish? exaggerate? make up?—something billed as non-fiction. I think Shannon has a lot more to write before anyone will take him seriously again, and for his sake, if he wants actually to be a journalist, it had all better be completely accurate. Completely.
In vaguely-related news, Airbus flew an A350 for the first time today. That's for real.