Airport PR staffers getting overwhelmed by rumors

DALLAS: Deluged by rumors, airport PR teams have criticized

journalists who are exaggerating minor incidents to make them appear to

be major crises.



In one incident, two Dallas broadcast outlets reported two different

items about Dallas Fort Worth airport. One network said there had been a

fuel spill there, while another reported that there was a major fire at

the facility. Neither report was true, and only one of the networks

corrected the story on-air.



When minor occurrences do take place, they are sometimes misinterpreted

or taken out of context. "They try with each instance to relate it to

the terrorist attacks," said Tina Sharp, DFW's public affairs

manager.



"Whenever there's an event that might have been minor in the past, it's

typically exaggerated."



In another incident at DFW, reporters listening to scanners heard what

is called an "alert one" - when the pilot calls the tower to report an

issue, such as an indicator-light activation.



"We had media calls asking if this was a possible overtaking of the

aircraft," Sharp said.



The issue is particularly problematic with the broadcast media, which is

interested in airing relevant travel information as quickly as

possible.



As a result, the PR teams are trying to respond as quickly.



"We have to respond even faster to make sure they get the right news,

but they want to get it live," Sharp said.



Airlines have also seen the rumor mill in action. British Airways had a

call from an Oceanside, CA newspaper over rumors that one of its

aircraft had a problem.



"We get a lot of what we call ambulance chasers out there," said John

Lampl, BA's VP of communications for North America. "You have to control

it. We are hoping people will call and find out, and not just report

that BA had a problem."



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