I’d like to cut the Danvers Herald some slack. They are, after all, owned by Gatehouse Media, which is bleeding staffers on a daily basis. But their response to criticism from readers for using the term “mass casualty” shows just how pathetic local journalism has become.
The newspaper and other Gatehouse papers and Websites used the term to describe a chemical leak at a Market Basket. 25 people reported symptoms and eight were eventually transferred to the hospital. In police jargon, the use of “mass casualty incident” was correct.
But newspapers are in the business of deciphering police jargon, and readers were understandably upset, thinking it was more serious (most people hear “mass casualty incident” and think “Mass shooting”). Rather than moving on, or, better yet, admitting they were wrong, Wendall Waters penned an op-ed defending the use of the term. He was backed by the fire chiefs in Rowley and Topsfield, which responded to the incident.
“Should a term other than ‘mass casualty’ have been used to describe the incident?” Waters wrote. “‘No,’ (Topsfield Fire Chief Jen) Broderick said, because that’s really what it was’.”
Nice work, Wendall. You were right. But your readers feel wronged.