A just-released report by U.S. government surveyors has concluded that the Washington Monument stood its ground against the August 2011 5.8-magnitude earthquake. The obelisk has sunk a bit more than 2 inches since 1901, and experts were expecting perhaps a little additional movement based on the disruptions of Aug. 23, 2011. But the National Geodetic Survey “said the quake had made no discernible difference,” according to the Associated Press. “If there was any movement, it was at the sub-millimeter level, and that’s just not reasonably detectable,” Dave Doyle, the survey’s project manager, told the AP.
Wait, this is a media blog, not a blog on earthquake-resistant design! Where’s the connection with the media?
That comes via Fox News. On the day of the quake, Megyn Kelly, a Fox anchor, had this to say on the obelisk’s fate:
One extraordinary comment from this D.C. police officer to our producer — this is just a one-liner but apparently he told our producer that they are concerned that the Washington Monument may be tilting. They are concerned that the Washington Monument may be tilting. That’s all I have ... a one line of that.
Fox reported that rumor without checking with the National Park Service, an omission that forced the network the following day into an awkward and posterior-covering statement:
We are told that engineers are today surveying the landmark trying to figure out how to make it safe again for tourists to enter. They spotted cracked stones near the top immediately after the quake. No word yet on how badly it is damaged but the Park Service is now saying that the statements from Washington, D.C., police yesterday that the monument may be leaning turned out not to be the case when they got close enough to inspect.
This surveyors’ report pretty much seals it for Fox’s scoop. The thing just stayed where it was, despite that hot tip from that unidentified “D.C. police” officer with no jurisdiction or expertise whatsoever on the monument.
If Fox News chief Roger Ailes had only had this study in hand back in April, when he told an audience at the University of North Carolina:
“[In] 15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong. You can’t say that about CNN, CBS or the New York Times.”
Perhaps he would have said:
“[In] 15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong, except for that thing about the tilting Washington Monument. You can’t say that about CNN, CBS or the New York Times.”
In the months since Ailes made that 15-years-of-perfection boast, Fox News has produced a four-minute attack video on President Obama that it was forced to disown, promoted a false report that EPA was using unmanned drones to eavesdrop on farmers and misreported the historic health-care ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.