See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Were Taiwanese Media Too Quick to Deem Doomed TransAsia Pilots Heroes?

Taiwanese media reported that the pilots saved many Taipei citizens. (photo from CNA).

Taiwanese media reported that the pilots saved many Taipei citizens. (Photo from CNA).

A TransAsia’s airplane crashed into the Keelung River in Taiwan on February 4, killing at least 40 people. Before the authorities probed the cause of the accident, Taiwanese media concluded that the pilots were heroes, saying they “saved Taipei” by steering the doomed flight away from buildings, avoiding an even bigger calamity.

The coverage raised the eyebrow of some netizens, who criticized the media for reporting in a sensational manner by turning the tragedy into a hero drama.

In response to this, writer Jen-Chien Kuan penned “The shameful and ridiculous myth-making of the press” in a local online news portal Newstalk to criticize the media for their breathless reporting before the authorities had confirmed anything:

在飛安會尚未確定失事原因之前,媒體就搶著造神。若基隆河本來就是松山機場起飛航空器的單發動機失效時的迴避航線,那麼機師就只是按照程序在飛行而已。萬一未來黑盒子解開後,證據指向根本就是機師誤判,關掉了正常發動機,讓兩個引擎同時失去動力,那麼機師就不是英雄,可能還是害死機上43人的兇手啊?在一切狀況都未明前,媒體憑什麼盲目造神?

Before the Aviation Safety Council confirmed the cause of the accident, all major media outlets vied to idolize the pilots. If Keelung River was set to be the emergency route-to-avoid when aircrafts lose engine power, the pilots were simply following aviation safety protocol. What if upon the analysis of the “black box”, evidence reveals that the pilots erroneously shut down the functioning engine and caused two engines to lose power? If this is really the case, the pilots are not heroes but killers who are responsible for the death of 43 people on board. When everything remains so unclear, how can the media start writing the myth?

Kuan’s article was reported by local media and stimulated discussion online. Netizen Cheng-Feng Yang agreed that the media reports were too soon to draw conclusion on the crash:

黑盒子也不過就解讀出駕駛艙錄音的部份,事情都別說得太早,飛航記錄出來再來說吧,機長閃過許多重要建築是不爭的事實。

The black box merely included the audio recording of the control cabin. Do not conclude until the flight recorder data comes out! However, the fact that the pilots skipped many important buildings remains indisputable.

Nan Nan Erh Ku Niang's post on mainland China online forum Tianya argued that it was possible that the pilots did contribute to the accident and took heroic action too:

說說我三更半夜在打這篇的原因,起因於前天飛安會公佈了黑盒子的初步分析,個人認為飛安會的說法相當保留,只針對現有的證據說出狀況,但在我看了台灣網友的留言,真的感到異常地憤怒!因為幾乎所有的留言都一面倒地指責飛安會「官官相護」、「推卸責任」,我知道台灣媒體這兩天都在造神,將兩位機師的英勇行徑大加褒揚,但面對專業的調查報告,也至少該有一定的判斷能力吧!就算兩位機師真的是英雄,也不代表英雄就不會肇禍,怎麼會因為他們做了一個英勇的表現,就反推回他們絕不會犯錯,而全盤否定有機師判斷錯誤的可能?

I believed the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) initial analysis of the black box was conservative. The report just described what happened based on existing evidence. However, I was outraged by the comments of some netizens. Nearly all of them blamed ASC for taking sides with officials and shirking their responsibility. I know that Taiwanese media had been praising two pilots for their courage, but we should also make our judgment based on the professional investigation report. Granted that two pilots are heroes, it doesn't mean that heroes had played no part in causing the accident. How could we conclude that the pilots had made no mistake and deny the possibility of their misjudgment simply because they did something heroic?

In August 2014, following the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in Ukraine, killing, 298 people, of whom 193 were Dutch, a Taiwanese blogger Elrohir compared Taiwanese and Dutch media's narrative style on disaster report:

平時看太多台灣媒體的新聞報導手法,再看到荷蘭處理國民死傷慘重事故的態度,兩者真的是天差地別。為什麼台灣媒體老是喜歡將家屬這種畫面給全國人民看?為什麼荷蘭就可以做得非常尊重死者及家屬?如果問我哪一邊的報導是比較優秀,當然毫無疑問是荷蘭,因為他們的做法是給予死者最高的敬意。

While getting used to the [sensational] reporting style of Taiwanese media, you could tell a huge difference when reading the Dutch reports on the deadly accident. Why did Taiwanese media always broadcast the breakdown of the victim's family’s to the entire country? Why did Dutch media manage to report on victims and their families in a respectful manner? If you ask me which media are better, I would definitely choose the Dutch. Their reports pay respect to the victims.

Bombarded by the continuous media reports on the tragedy, Sheng-Hsiang Yu, assistant professor in the Fo Guang University department of psychology, suggested a couple of measures for the audiences to keep their mind peaceful:

  1. 關掉電視,保護大腦
  2. 調整呼吸,學著放鬆
  3. 勇敢說愛,擁抱家人
  4. 做些簡單的好事
  1. Turn off the television and protect your brain.
  2. Breathe smoothly and relax.
  3. Dare to express love and embrace your family.
  4. Do something simple and kind.

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

Learn more about Global Voices »

Donate now

Close